After a dozen years at the helm of a Shepherds Bush parish church, the Rev Bob Mayo is taking on a new challenge as chaplain at a young offenders’ institution.
Bob, 57, and his wife Sylvie will be moving in February from Uxbridge Road, where he has had a dual role as priest of St Stephen and St Thomas, Shepherds Bush, as well as St Michael and St George, White City, since 2005.
His new job is working at Rochester Prison, Kent, offering pastoral care to the young offenders, prison staff and visitors.
Among those paying tribute to his community work was Cllr Sue Fennimore, Deputy Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, who praised his ‘determination to help the most vulnerable in society’.
“Our loss is Rochester’s gain,” she added. “And in working with young people in prison the Rev Bob Mayo will be focusing his talents on trying to reduce reoffending and on steering teenagers away from crime.”
Two farewell services are planned to say goodbye to the popular and active clergyman. One is at St Michael and St George’s church, Commonwealth Avenue, White City, on Sunday 13 January at 11am, with the vicar’s final service at St Stephen’s at 10am on Sunday 3 February.
“I will meet the young people on the day they come in, see them when in hospital and when on the punishment wing, and via religious services and events, which might include reading Shakespeare or on an Alpha course,” he explained. “But part of the role is also supporting the staff.”
With past experience as a youth worker, his CV made him ideally suited to the new job. “My view is ‘never mind what you’ve done… let’s think about the future’,” he said.
Sad to say goodbye
Yet for all the anticipation about his new role, leaving Hammersmith & Fulham – and the shoals of friends and contacts he has made in 12 years – will be a huge wrench.
“H&F is a stunning place, and I’m certainly not leaving because the grass is greener on the other side – the grass is definitely browner!
“It’ll break my heart to leave; I’ve seen under the skin of this area, and the work done by the extraordinarily committed voluntary sector. I’ve worked with extremely vulnerable homeless people; I’ll miss the fluidity of the people.”
Among the initiatives he has pioneered locally, in partnership with charities, is a Monday evening cinema club for homeless people, with a hot meal. “Going to a cinema is expensive, and not within the budget of a homeless person,” he explained.
He is also the chaplain at QPR, supporting those at the club and organising the scattering of ashes for the families of fans who have died. “When there’s a Sunday game my sermons are shorter and I will have preached, prayed, blessed the congregation and still had time to make it to Loftus Road for kick off,” he said.
Bob had an intriguing encounter when he attended Rochester for his interview, meeting a ‘brazen young lady’ in the waiting area, who was there to see her partner, an inmate in the institution.
“She was confident, but nervous. She asked who I was, and when I told her I was there for an interview, she waited outside until I got out to ask how it had gone! You do meet some remarkable people!”
It’s a big change for the Rev Bob Mayo, but he firmly believes it’s the right move. “It’s a brilliant opportunity,” he said. “I’m an older man, so I’m not someone trying to prove himself!”
Part of his task will be to join the effort to reduce the reoffending rate for the young people in the institution. At present, 73 per cent of youth offenders released from custody reoffend within a year.
“I feel that’s an area where I can make a contribution,” said Bob. “I will come with a listening ear, a loving heart and a determined mind, and try to help prisoners to understand that there are different ways of living out their future.”
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