Sunday Eucharist is over and Peter Prior needs to check that the church lights have been switched off. Hes already helped officiate at the service, chatted at length to members of the congregation and found us a quiet corner for this interview. Life as a Reader is never dull. One of two Readers at St Marys the other is Michael Booth Peters role is to provide practical support to the clergy. That means acting as Deacon at Holy Communion, preaching twice a month and performing various other parish duties, such as taking Communion to the housebound, officiating at funeral services, and ensuring that church facilities remain in good working order.
Taking early retirement after 34 years at BT, Peter is well qualified for the latter. If, as happened a while back, the boiler breaks down, you can bet your bottom dollar that hell be trying to do something about it. If there are bats in the belfry or issues over fire drill, the same applies. You dont join BT at 16, bring up four children and go on to get a degree without learning something about practical problem solving.
Peters no-nonsense background also suggests a reliable friend in need. Brought up a strict Roman Catholic in Northern Ireland, Peter arrived in East Anglia when his father, a career soldier, and mother migrated here with their family. With five brothers and a sister, strong opinions and human interaction were never in short supply. Peter left the Catholic Church, "as I became disillusioned with the hierarchy", not least over birth control. Returning to formal religion "after ten years in the wilderness", he and wife Susan became regular church goers at St Augustines Anglican Church in Ipswich, where they live.
Singing in church one Sunday, it dawned on Peter that he might have a calling to the priesthood. He went through a gruelling process known as "discernment" to test his vocation and eventually became a Reader, first at St Augustines and now at St Marys. "Its a huge responsibility," he says. "Often when Im preaching I feel Im preaching to myself just to get a particular issue straight in my mind."
Outside church, Peter Prior is a family man first he also has four grandchildren and enjoys making and sailing radio-controlled yachts. Elemental control, it seems, is the order of the day.
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