Father Gorran - longest serving parish priest in Bay - retires and praises his 'wonderful people'

Priest outside house

Father Gorran - Credit: Submitted

The longest-serving Parish Priest in Torquay is retiring.

Father Gorran Chapman, 66, has been Vicar of St Martin's, Barton, for 29 years.

He is the fourth Vicar of the parish, and he has been in office for longer than any of his predecessors.

He is also now one of the senior Parish clergy in Devon, and has been in ministry in the Church for a total of 41 years.

The Diocese of Exeter acknowledged the value and esteem in which he is held by appointing him to be a Prebendary of Exeter Cathedral in 2007.  Father Gorran is to become Prebendary Emeritus of the Cathedral, continuing to maintain his links with the cathedral and the Church in Devon.

Father Gorran was born in Cornwall and trained at the Universities of Durham and Cambridge. He was ordained in Truro in 1980 and served in three parishes in Cornwall before coming to Torquay.

He is returning to Cornwall to live in retirement and will be living near to four generations of his family, ranging from his mother, 93, to his youngest great-nephew who will be one year old on April 17.

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Father Gorran said: "I am looking forward to being close to my family. I am looking forward particularly to helping with the care and company of my mother. I also recognize that in a few years time, my family will be needing to supervise me."

The Church and the local community and the wider world has changed enormously.

When he arrived, The Willows did not exist, Sainsburys was the only shop, and not a single house had been built. The road alongside the Church and his Vicarage - Beechfield Avenue - changed from being a quiet residential cul de sac, to becoming one of the major access roads to The Willows. The Willows has accounted for the population of the parish almost doubling.

During his time there has also been a total redecoration and refurbishment of the Church inside and out, a refurbishment and redevelopment of the Church Hall, the stabilising  of a Church which was financially insecure and which is flourishing and looking forward to its future and increasing social conscience its congregation including charity work and support.

Clergymen walking on pilgrimage

Father Gorran (centre) on a recent Glastonbury Pilgrimage - Credit: Submitted

For several years, now, St Martin's has been the leading church in the Bay in raising thousands for Christian Aid. Father Gorran personally carried out three sponsored Walks to the Glastonbury Pilgrimage.

Father Gorran was Mayor's Chaplain to former councillor Colin Charlwood and St Martin's Church was used as the Mayoral Church during his  term.

He organized church services and community events for the Golden Jubilee of the Queen in 2002 and her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

In March 2006, the then Archbishop of Canterbury - Doctor Rowan Williams - honoured Father Gorran with his presence at a service in St Martin's Church, to mark his then 25 years as a Priest - believed to be the only time that an Archbishop of Canterbury has been at St. Martin's. Doctor Rowan Williams had been Father Gorran's tutor at Cambridge in his 1970's student days.

Father Gorran says: "Being a Parish Priest was the only thing I ever seriously wanted to do. I have been fortunate to have been able to do this work for over 40 years now, but in all sorts of ways it feels as though I have really only just begun. I am really very sad and sorry to be leaving a community and a parish which I greatly love and which is full of wonderful people whom I have been privileged to serve.

"They have given me far more than I have ever been able to give to them. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart and I promise that I will never forget St. Martin's Church, and the people of Hele and Barton and The Willows."