WHEN SHE first arrived and walked down the street in Tavistock priest Rosie Illingworth felt people’s eyes on her.

She was a curiosity as a young female vicar in this traditional market town.

However, three years on, things have changed and she feels very much part of the community.

The Rev Illingworth is now leaving to be chaplain at St Albans School after three years in post at St Eustachius parish church and is sad to leave, but is proud of her achievements which have concentrated on building stronger links with younger people.

The role was her first as a newly qualified curate after her training for ministry at Cranmer Hall, Durham University, and she joined at the beginning of the pandemic which made life difficult as a new priest.

“Life was difficult for everyone during covid, but when you are a new vicar in a new parish, then it’s even harder to make a good impact.

“The whole idea is to get out and about and meet my parishioners and introduce myself, then get to know them and make the church as relevant to people’s lives as possible.

“Luckily it was good weather, so I was meeting people in their gardens over cups of coffee and introducing myself. When I started here people stared a lot — I was a novelty as a young new priest and a woman, on top. It has changed, although people still look. I’ve been accepted in a town by an older population. However, I think, because I am a woman and younger, it’s made me more approachable to everyone.”

The Rev Illingworth, 31, has made a positive difference working with Kelly College and St Rumon’s Infants School.

She works with the monthly ‘Messy Church’ for children (included a baptism in a paddling pool) and set up ‘Little Deers’ baby and toddlers group: “I love working with children and schools, as a key part of our community. Our congregation has a high average age, which can mean that I’m treated like people’s daughter or grandchild – which can be wonderful and frustrating at the same time! In contrast, I’m passionate about about engaging  with younger people and children and making the church all-inclusive.”