Reprinted from Newsletter 100, dated 2001 August–September

Farewell to Rileys and the vicarage

John Brunsdon, Jim Nagel

A woman and man stand in front of a large house finished in a pale brown colour. Both have grey hair. Thewoman wears a light blue sweater, and a cross hangs from her neck. The man wears a striped dark-coloured sweater. Both smile at the camera. A grassy garden is in front of the house, and a wide gravel path leads from the camera to the front door.

Patrick and Elizabeth Riley on their farewell Sunday. The vicarage in Lambrook Street is also being pensioned off. Splendid though they be, such a large house and garden to heat and tend would deter many priests and their families from taking on Glastonbury. It cost £900 to build in 1819 and will go on the market for more like £500,000. The diocese has bought a modern house at 24 Wells Road to replace it.

Our sincere thanks and good wishes go to Patrick and Elizabeth Riley after so much good work in the community. Retiring after 15 years as vicar of the two Glastonbury parishes (St John’s and St Ben’s) as well as West Pennard, Meare and Godney, Patrick’s final Sunday here was on August 19. All his congregations, including the mayor, gathered to make a full house at St John’s and then for a reception at the Town Hall. On the Saturday, the bells rang a full peal of Grandsire Triples.

Both the Rileys have served as school governors and on numerous other committees and activities, Patrick as an Abbey trustee.

Conservation work worth around half a million pounds has been completed at St John’s Church during Patrick’s ministry in Glastonbury: the restoration work on the tower, repairing inside and outside, railings replaced, bells rehung, crosses and porch restored, and new parish rooms in Church Lane, to mention just a few projects.

It has been a time when unsocial behaviour and disturbed people let loose in the community must have made life very difficult. Firmness and compassion have been much in evidence while others have sadly resorted to bigotry.

Waxing historical at the Town Hall, churchwarden Neill Bonham related how around AD950 Abbot Dunstan appointed a rector to care for the population that had settled outside the already ancient Abbey walls — responsible for their health, education and welfare, not just religious needs.

At the end of his last service, Patrick ceremonially handed back his heavy bunch of keys and the legal document with which the bishop had charged him with the “cure of souls” of everyone in the parish, not just churchgoers.

Current practice is a vacancy (often jocularly called an “interregnum”) of about 10 months. Meanwhile the assistant priest, Graham Witts, and retired and visiting clergy will fill a rota.

Patrick and Elizabeth moved on the Monday to Shaftesbury, where they have owned a house for the past five years. You may already know their view to Gold Hill and down the Blandford Valley: it’s in a current Hovis advert on television.