IT was with great sadness that members of the community learned of the recent death of former Ross Rector, The Venerable Paul Wheatley, write Paul Eward and Derek Glover.

Paul had “cut his teeth” in the joint Anglican / Methodist church at Dorcan, near Swindon. 

His appointment to Ross in 1979 by the then Bishop of Hereford, John Eastaugh, was inspirational.

 He arrived just as the Church of England introduced a major new book of services (the 1980 Alternative Service Book). 

This book was a modernisation of the language of worship which, it must be said, was not welcomed with open arms by every member of the Ross congregation. 

He also introduced the nave altar to some considerable opposition. 

He was more than a mere modernising influence, and it is upon the foundations he laid, that the current healthy state of St Mary’s is based. 

Had he “played safe” and left things as they were, the church would now probably have been empty, or at least some way behind on the journey we have been travelling.

Paul had a strong belief in church and community linkage and so widened the use of the church and churchyard by encouraging strawberry fairs and flower festivals, he set up thoughtful and productive teams to support his work. 

He had the ability to get people to do things before they had realised that they had said yes! Pantomimes and productions also flourished. 

He provided good support for school governors particularly for the delicate closure of the Brampton Abbotts School building in the village, and negotiations for the transfer of the church school into Ross.

Paul led the team of clergy responsible for Bridstow, Peterstow and Brampton Abbotts and was a great support when Rev’d Frances Hancock was appointed as the first woman priest to the three parishes.

Paul’s faith supported him following the death of his daughter Fenella (groom to Her Majesty the late Queen) which affected him deeply. 

He was a truly pastoral priest, who once said in a sermon that he had “the best job in the world”.

He left Ross in 1991 on his appointment, by the Crown, to the Archdeaconry of Sherborne where he continued to support the updating of the Church’s liturgy and practice in Salisbury diocese.

There are many people who will have cause to be grateful to Paul, and for his time here. 

We hold his widow, Iris, as well as Andrew, Tim and Jo, Ollie, Hannah and Adam in our thoughts and prayers at this time.