There were no doubt a few tears and more than a few laughs in Padstow this weekend as the community came together to say goodbye to popular vicar Revd Canon Chris Malkinson who retired.

Father Chris has hung up his cassock after over 30 years as a parish priest and is heading off with his wife Gill to enjoy retirement in Brixham.

Father Chris says that his time in Padstow has been “absolutely fantastic”. “I’ve been very lucky. I’ve loved my life and I wouldn’t swap any of it.”

Initially being priest for Padstow and Trevone, Father Chris’ flock grew in 2015 when he became priest for the parishes of St Merryn, St Issey and Little Petherick following the passing of Revd Canon Julia Wilkinson.

Chris says: “It has been tough. I am feeling tired. I will be 70 in June and it’s been hard work taking on Julia’s parishes. I know by the time I go though, they will all be running together smoothly and Gill and I can enjoy just doing what we want to do and being together. Gill’s been my rock and often says she cares for the carer. I tell people I’m God’s PR man!”

As his full time working life comes to an end, Father Chris says his journey to priesthood was not a foregone conclusion. Despite having a brother, father and grandfather who were already clergy, Father Chris didn’t initially plan on making it his life.

“When I was about 20 my Dad decided I would be ordained and I decided I wouldn’t. I went off and did a number of jobs including working at Butlins (contrary to the rumours I was not a Red Coat!), before buying a hardware shop. That was quite enlightening really because my shop was in the parish where my brother was priest. People used to come into the shop and talk to me so that I could talk to my brother because they didn’t like going to the vicarage. My brother ended up coming to the shop to see people!”

It wasn’t until his mother’s death when she was just 56 that Father Chris decided to follow in his family’s footsteps into the church. “It was only after she died that I found out she had said to my dad ‘leave him alone and he’ll be ordained by the time he’s 40’ and I was. I was ordained as Deacon aged 39 in 1986 and that was it.”

Father Chris attended Chichester Theological College before taking up his first post as a Curate in Stroud, Gloucestershire where he remained for three years before moving on to Cam, also in Gloucestershire. “I looked after two churches there and stayed for over ten years. I then decided to move to Cornwall, against my Archdeacon’s advice – he felt I would be too bored!”

That fear turned out to be unfounded as Father Chris’ first post in the Diocese of Truro turned out to be one of the most challenging. “I had two parishes. One was absolutely lovely but unfortunately the other parish and I simply didn’t hit it off and within 11 months in my second parish there had been a revolt!”

With tremendous support from Bishop Bill, Bishop Roy and Archdeacon Rodney Whiteman, Chris stayed for two years before seeing the vacancy at St Petroc’s in Padstow. Chris said: “I applied along with 17 other people and I got it and it’s been the happiest 16 years of my life.”

As well as reflecting on his own life, Chris has also been reflecting on how the church has changed during his career. “I have noticed with the young Curates that their training is very different to mine. It’s a lot more about management. When I started, you used to be a central part of the community. But now you can’t be a part of the community in the same way when you have five communities to cover. I could see that I had become the dinosaur!”

Chris says that the church has changed beyond belief for him and what he feels is the ‘demotion of the Eucharist’ as part of that has brought him sadness. His hope for the future: “That the church is relevant to the people wherever they are serving rather than trying to be all holy.”

Father Chris will not completely hang up his dog collar when he and Gill get to Brixham, although he is planning on taking six months off. “When I am ready I will apply for permission to officiate but Gill and I need a break first.”