The man in charge of Bridlington's most iconic building

It's Tuesday morning and Britain is waking up to the sickening news of the terrorist attack in Manchester.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 24th May 2017, 2:35 pm
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:18 pm
The Rev Matthew Pollard inside the Priory
The Rev Matthew Pollard inside the Priory

At harrowing times like this, communities often turn to the church to find something to help them. Words to soothe them, leaders to guide them, a place to find sanctuary.

Bridlington is like every town in the country, it has been stunned by what it is hearing on the news and seeing on social media.

At the Priory, I had arranged to meet the Rector, the Rev Matthew Pollard, just hours after details of the terror attack emerged.

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The Rev Matthew Pollard at the Priory altar

He said: “I had a look through Facebook this morning and everybody posts ‘thoughts and prayers’, regardless of whether they regularly go to church. There is something instinctive in people wanting to pray.

“What’s distinctive about the Priory is it is a very public church. Yes, it is a base for a community of committed believers and worshippers, but it is more than that.”

Each day, the church is open to members of the public. They can pray in a traditional sense, take time for quiet contemplation, light a candle, or even write their thoughts down on paper and place them on a board, knowing these will be offered as prayers at the first service the following day.

“Church life is not a single interest group. It is inter-generational and for people from all walks of life,” he said.

The Rev Matthew Pollard became Rector in more than 2013.

“It is such a busy church, a seven-day-a-week church. But as well as beautifully crafted acts of worship, it is a very interesting tourist and historical attraction.

“It is a cultural centre.

Rev Matthew originally trained as a solicitor, but was ordained in 2003 and served two parishes in his native West Yorkshire, before moving to the Priory a decade later.

“I felt it was an appropriate time to move on,” he said. “Like any other profession, I started looking at job adverts.

The Rev Matthew Pollard at the Priory altar

“When I saw an advert for Bridlington Priory, it just seemed to be a good fit.

“I applied, I was shortlisted and I came for interview. It’s a stretching and challenging job, but the Priory is about engaging in people’s lives.”

He feels at home here but admits there will come a time, well into the future, when he may fell the need to pass the Priory into another caring pair of hands.

“It’s not always healthy for clergy to stay in the same place forever,” he said.

The Rev Matthew Pollard became Rector in more than 2013.

As well as his duties at the Priory, he regularly visits local schools, is a governor at Headlands School and Padre to the Bridlington 252 Air Training Corps.

Rev Matthew is aware of the old joke that ‘a vicar only works one day a week’ but nothing coul be further from the truth.

Time off is at a premium but he enjoys singing in the choir and walking his dogs.

His love of choral music was a big draw and he is proud of the musical tradition at the church. Its organ is one of the finest in the country and it holds recitals with musicians from home and abroad.

“All of our prinicple services are enriched by the choir, dedicated boys who maintain the English Choral Tradition to a high standard.”

The Priory has also been used for rock concerts, art exhibitions and will host a debate between the general election candidates next month.

“The Priory is here to help the community express itself. It’s part of our responsibility to help to shape the type of society we want in Bridlington.

Even though Rev Matthew is in the church every day, its wonder never stops to amaze him.

“There is something about this building,” he said. “People have been praying in this building for 900 years. There’s a spirituality in the very fabric of it.

“Visually, it is awe-inspiring and I get the best view every day when I am leading the services.

“There are still spine-tingling moments. At the Christingle service at Christmas time, when the lights are switched off and you can see 350 people holding candles, that is one of the highlights of the year.

“There is a great atmosphere inside the church.

“Another highlight is the Great Gale service in February. It is all about the identity of Bridlington as a town.

“When the lifeboat crew process in with representatives of the coastguards, it makes you realise what is distinctive about Bridlington and what brings us together as a community.”