Ed OatesIt’s been said the Cross of St Piran Award recognises the extraordinary acts, big and small, of ordinary people. But there is little that is ordinary about the recipients I have interviewed over the years, and Ed Oates is no exception.

Ed is a man who has made much of his life. He’s worked around helicopters for a lot of it and currently trains aircrew at RNAS Culdrose, using highly sophisticated equipment. Yet for Ed, it’s something as simple as sweeping up leaves from the church porch that helps him to keep in touch with his faith.

A simple faith

“Mine isn’t a deep theological faith,” says Ed, almost apologetically. “It’s very simple. I feel moved by the spirit to be in and around church. Whatever that looks like. Helping write notes or strumming some chords to help people sing along. Or just doing the washing up.”

Although this is how Ed sees himself, reading Revd Canon Nigel Marn’s citation, he has done very much more. Ed was a key figure in a community development plan to link the four churches in the Mounts Bay Benefice. He helped establish Messy Church in its early days, leading and shaping it today as we emerge from the pandemic. Ed is also part of the editorial team of the community facing benefice magazine, the View, as well as managing the benefice website. He also helped keep everyone connected during the lockdowns, putting services on social media as well as organising a dial-in facility for members who weren’t able to connect in this way.

An ancient connection to the sea, the skies and the Celtic Christians who’ve gone before

So what draws Ed to church? “As a child, going to church was almost a civic, social duty imposed on me by my family. But the first moment I held my baby son in my arms, I knew there was so much more.

“As a child, going to church was almost a civic, social duty imposed on me by my family. But the first moment I held my baby son in my arms, I knew there was so much more.”

Ed Oates with his family
“My faith has slowly taken root, but it remains an earthly faith. When I go to our church, at Perranuthnoe, I am always touched by its simplicity. I step outside of this wonderful, Cornish Celtic church and as well as feeling connected to all the Celtic Christians that have gone before, I feel connected to what I see and feel. The sea, the huge skies, the rolling coastline and the bay in the distance. I can’t explain it any more deeply than that.”

“I also love the people that come along. Those who preach – I so admire them and am intrigued by their journeys, what moves them, that inner-something that they have.”

A gentle Godliness

Ed also has that inner something, even if he doesn’t recognise it in himself. It’s obvious when he talks about the people in his life, the family he loves and his worries that he’s not getting the balance right between family/work/church. And it’s obvious when he talks about the aircrew he’s trained over the years, how he relishes the moment when they become a team. “Helicopters need three or four people to make it work. It’s a real joy seeing a team finally working together, knowing their own roles, for whatever they must do – search and rescue or military tasks.”

Being awarded the Cross of St Piran has profoundly moved Ed Oates. He isn’t comfortable talking, would much rather be doing, and will be embarrassed by these words. But there is a gentle Godliness within him that is rare, and it’s most worthy of celebration.

Ed Oates is one of 18 people who will be awarded the Cross of St Piran at St Piran’s, Perranzabuloe, on March 6th, 2022