THE much-loved vicar of one of Malvern’s most popular churches is retiring this months after 30 years serving the community.

Reverend Eric Knowles, chaplain of Little Malvern Priory, will take his last service on August 30, and thanked the people of Malvern for all their help and support over the years.

He said: “Thanks to everyone in Malvern, it has been a mixed bag but overall it has been great fun. I know it is a bit of a hackneyed term but it really has been a privilege.”

Rev Knowles was perhaps unusual for a clergyman in that he had a job in addition to his church duties. This, he said, allowed him to empathise with his parishioners who were worried or struggling with work problems.

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He said: “One funny story was when I was made redundant from my job. I went to the job centre and was looking at the job adverts, and I noticed several people smiling and nodding at me, I had no idea why.

“It is only then I realised, I still had my dog collar on. They must have been thinking ‘times really are bad if they are making the clergy redundant too’”

In addition to his role at Little Malvern Priory, Rev Knowles is also the chaplain to the RAF Cadets, covering Wales, the midlands and Merseyside.

As part of this job, he held a special remembrance service from the Himalayas.

Looking back, he said: “I got the phone call asking if I wanted to do a special remembrance service, which isn’t unusual for a regional chaplain, but then they asked me if I wanted to climb the Himalayas to do it.

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“I’ve still got the picture of the group halfway up. We could see the Everest base camp below and we had the rest of Everest in the background.”

Rev Knowles said the biggest praise and thanks had to go to his wife Valerie, without whom he said none of this would be possible without.

He said: “In this life, you have to have 100 per cent support from your wife and there are so many times when she has had to become a ‘priest widow’ when I’ve had to have late meetings for hours.

“One time, for example, we had just got back from a holiday in Greece and I got a call to ask if I could take communion with a man who was dying.

“Without her, none of this would have been possible.”