Robert Pearce from Braddock Church is one of the 14 people awarded a 2021 Cross of St Piran.

Robert joined the other recipients and invited family and friends to receive the award from Bishop Philip during a service online at the weekend.

Despite a long list of accomplishments and work for parish, benefice, deanery and diocese, Robert was surprised to be nominated. It is perhaps no surprise then that he is keen to highlight that everything he has done has been a group effort with fellow parishioners who are all just as deserving of the award.

While Robert says the cross was unexpected, he does note it is most welcome. “This year has been dreadful mentally for many people so receiving this does make a difference to how I feel and to others in my community.

‘I have not done it alone’

“I have not done it alone. My fellow churchwarden and our safeguarding officer are mums from school who got involved after their children started bell ringing. Someone else comes from Tywardreath to help with the children’s activities. There are a whole set of people who give their time to help.”

Since becoming churchwarden in 2018, Robert, with the support of his wife Kathryn, has worked tirelessly to build up the church and its mission at Bradoc. The list of his accomplishments during this time illustrate both his creative vision and seemingly inexhaustible energy. Between them, Robert and Kathryn have revived and restructured the financial arrangements that have undoubtedly laid the foundation upon which everything else is founded.

He inspired the current lady chapel reordering, which has resulted in a community space cum-lady chapel for private prayer, and informal worship. Through his tireless work, the thread-bare carpets were renewed, heaters placed above the pews, new floors laid and old repaired, contactless ways of giving were embraced to encourage the ministry of giving by visitors to the new nature trail he has created in the church yard.

The vestry has been transformed into a useable and safe office space. A new amplification and wi-fi system also ensures services are heard and seen by all who attend service.

He is a constant source of encouragement to the children of the parish, and his weekly (pre-Covid) bell ringing classes are responsible for many of them being in church on Sundays. They usually take part in the service by reading, singing, or playing the newly acquired electric baby grand piano that he acquired through grant applications!

Robert admits that Covid has impacted on the church’s work with the young bell ringers. “We have probably lost two years of youngsters. We know some of the younger ones will have forgotten how to ring and the older ones may have moved on. If you can’t keep up with them, you lose them.”

‘A quarter of the congregation are young people’

Robert’s work with the school and the introduction of bell ringing saw the congregation jump five-fold and a quarter of the congregation are young people which isn’t bad for a church ‘in the middle of nowhere’. So Robert and his team are very keen to get all their activities up and running again as soon as possible and that includes the ecumenical Open the Book team which goes into Bradoc school on a fortnightly basis.

Looking further afield, last year Robert established contact with a namesake church community in Maryland USA, and the parishes have spent the past year developing international links via zoom with them, culminating in an internationally united carol service in December 2020. In fact, Robert joins in the American service every week and their coffee catch up after. Robert says: “It has been one of the good things to come out of Covid. You realise you aren’t alone. They are having the same problems as us and we are also learning from them – someone over there has invented individual chalices that have wine in one side and bread on the other!”

In the church’s living churchyard, a quiet place of peace and tranquillity visited by parishioners and the school children alike, Robert has built a nature altar and pews which are used for worship in the warmer months.

Robert says: “Lots of the things we do can only be done because other people are doing them with us. It’s nice to receive the award but there are a whole set of people here in the church who enabled me and are just as worthy contenders for a cross.”

Robert also works across the benefice as safeguarding facilitator and advisor, health and safety and PCC officer for another parish, he is the deanery vice chair, member of the diocesan synod member and recently appointed advisor of the DAC.

Even during these days of pandemic, things have not stopped completely. “We are in the process of going for a faculty that is part of our efforts to make the church more user friendly for the community. Our church is in the middle of nowhere, for people to come, they have to have a reason. We want to make it useable for everyone so people have a reason to come.”