A READING department store recently bade farewell to its chaplain after 12 years’ sterling service.

The Revd Alan Barnes, who was also the retired pastor of St Birinus in Calcot, had been offering support to the staff and shoppers of The House of Fraser store in The Oracle shopping centre, but he retired at a special celebration tea earlier this summer. Held at Bill’s Café in Chain Street, the afternoon event saw friends and church leaders gather together for a time of thanksgiving and reflection for his service. “It was agreed with the manager that I should proceed on a ‘see how it goes’ basis. That was 12 years ago,” he said. “Now I am nearly 70, I have decided to call it a day.“During my time as chaplain, I had the privilege of blessing a marriage, taking a funeral of a staff’s relative and was called in when a member of the staff committed suicide at home. “I am grateful to the management for giving me the run of the store.”

The chair of Churches Together in Reading, Michael Penny, gave Alan a present on behalf of the town’s churches and the new chaplain, Antonia Elliot, was introduced to those gathered. She is an ordinand based at Greyfriars.