The new vicar at Grovehill’s Church of the Resurrection says he is a big kid at heart, who, just weeks into the role, is already interacting with the community in unorthodox ways.
Austin Janes, 39, has moved on from his previous role as minor canon for young people at nearby St Albans Cathedral and takes over from the church’s former vicar Rev Sue Allen – who also acted as team rector for the Benefice of Hemel Hempstead – until her retirement last year.
As a local ecumenical partnership, the Church of the Resurrection features a mix of churches of different denominations including Anglicans, Baptists and United Reform.
Austin said: “There’s a very wide spread of different styles of worship in this church, and I like to think of it as an example of how faith should be.”
One of his first acts as the new vicar after his ‘installation’ last month was to let off a clutch of balloons, each representing different activities of the church – to see which travelled furthest.
He explained: “My installation and licensing featured many formal symbols, but I wanted to include one of fun as well.
“People often think of the bible, bread, wine, and water for the font, but I prefer to think of other symbols of fun and learning together, and the balloons represented that.
“I am a big kid at heart. Although my ministry involves working with adults of all ages and stages of life – including the more challenging times –I believe I have a gift for working with children and teenagers, and growing with them.”
Austin also showed his fun side with an appreciation of the BBC Two sitcom Rev – in which Tom Hollander plays modern city vicar Adam Smallbone. The first episode of its third series premiered last week.
Austin said that although he has not yet managed to find out his congregation’s thoughts on the programme, he hopes it will spark discussion amongst the range of worshippers he serves.
He said: “As a vicar ordained in The Church of England, I really look forward to each series of Rev.
“Although there are lots of references which only those involved with the Church of England will understand, I don’t think this is an obstacle to others finding it funny. It is healthy if the Church can laugh at itself.
“I believe there will be some hot topics from the Church of England tackled in the forthcoming series – I look forward with interest to see how they are tackled and what wider impact they may have.
“God has used stranger ways of talking to the world than through a TV comedy.”
Dog lover Austin lives with his wife and 10-year-old daughter, and says he is keen to get to know his community while out walking his pooch.