Four years became 40 for Suffolk rector
WHEN Geoffrey and Wendy Grant arrived in Nacton they only intended to stay four years . . . but they found it so heavenly they have stopped for 40.They arrived from swinging London where The Beatles were the kings of court to a sleepy Suffolk village where they were among the youngest residents.
WHEN Geoffrey and Wendy Grant arrived in Nacton they only intended to stay four years . . . but they found it so heavenly they have stopped for 40.
They arrived from swinging London where The Beatles were the kings of court to a sleepy Suffolk village where they were among the youngest residents.
This week the couple are celebrating four decades of being immersed in the life of the village – making him the current longest serving clergyman in Suffolk in one post.
For Canon Grant it is a double ruby celebration as he is not only marking 40 years as vicar, but also 40 years as a governor of the village primary school.
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"When we came it was only intended to be for four years and then we would move to another parish, but I think the Bishop forgot about me," said Mr Grant.
"We do love the village and the area though and we have enjoyed living here and being part of the community so much.
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"I think there is a lot to be said for stability and continuity. Most vicars only stay about four years before they move on, but that doesn't give you enough time to get to know people and become a part of things.
"Every community has needs and there is so much to do. Some of the urban clergy say to me, 'What do you do all day in the country?' But it never stops."
Mr and Mrs Grant had been married less than a year when they moved to St Martin's at Nacton from St Luke's Chelsea, where he had been curate.
The Rectory had no heating and only three power points in the whole house.
They were the youngest clergy couple in the diocese. Soon after their arrival Mrs Grant opened the door to a local clergyman who asked to see "her father", the vicar – she was younger than the daughters of the two previous incumbents.
But they soon threw themselves into village life, with Mr Grant leading services, visiting the sick and elderly, and attending local events.
He was made chairman of governors at Nacton primary and had the sole responsibility of appointing teachers.
"That was the vicar's job in those days – you were automatically the chairman of governors," he said.
"Being a governor is a role I have really enjoyed in the village. Now I see children attending the school whose parents attended the school."
One of the Grants' longest links with the area is Evening Star photographer John Kerr, who was the first to photograph them when they arrived.
"They were like a breath of fresh air, coming up from London, and so young. They are a lovely couple and a vital part of the village," he said.
Over the years Mr Grant has conducted at least 600 weddings, marrying the children – and baptising the grandchildren – of those he married in the 1960s and 1970s.
When he first arrived he was rector of Nacton and Levington, but today he is also vicar for Bucklesham, Kirton and Falkenham.
He is also Rural Dean for the area, having proudly overseen the building of two new churches at Martlesham and Cavendish Park, Felixstowe.
His other roles include as a governor at Amberfield and chaplain at Orwell Park School, and his Christian ministry has included pioneering the scheme of Local Ordained Ministry, now used all over the country.
Over the years he has seen many changes in the area – led the campaign to save Nacton school from closure in the 1970s and its later expansion, the growth of the community, and the creeping tentacles of Ipswich's housing and industrial areas.
n Britain was in the middle of a cultural revolution as fashion, music and showbiz became the national obsession.
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n Sir Alec Douglas-Home was prime minister until October when a General Election saw Harold Wilson take power.
n A jury in Dallas found Jack Ruby guilty of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, assassin of president John F Kennedy.
n Civil rights leader Martin Luther King was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for leading the non-violent campaign to end racial prejudice in the USA.
n My Fair Lady, Dr Strangelove, A Fistful of Dollars and Mary Poppins were the among the top films of the year.