Jolley Well Set on Vicar's Life; the New Vicar of Aston Is Rolling Up His Sleeves to Tackle Gun Crime, Drugs and Dwindling Congregations. Andrew Jolley Tells Religious Affairs Reporter Emma Pinch Why He Swapped His Pinstripe Suit for a Dog Collar

Article excerpt

Byline: Emma Pinch

With a pounds 50,000 job and a career that took him across Europe, many of Andrew Jolley's contemporaries would have their minds focused on share options and exotic holidays.

But seven years ago Mr Jolley ditched the comfortable corporate lifestyle to become a vicar living and working in one of Birmingham's most challenging parishes.

Last week the father of two, aged 41, officially became the Vicar of Aston-- and says the skills he gained as a management consultant will prove vital to his spiritual role.

The new Jolley family home is startlingly close to the Aston Expressway and even inside the house, the muffled roar can still be felt.

The new vicar, his GP wife Ricky, and children Beth, aged seven, and Matthew, five, live in a house identical to the councilbuilt homes which make up much of Aston.

The Rev Jolley took up his new post after serving four years as a curate in Sparkhill before choosing to make the move to Aston. 'Many people's perception is that working in the church is boring,' he said. 'I didn't want something boring.'

'The thing I appreciated in Sparkhill was the multi-cultural aspect - there would be 25 nationalities in the congregation.

'I loved that, it expresses God and the diversity of his creation. The challenge in church is making that diversity work together. The Church of England is set up in a very English sort of way. To understand the Liturgy it helps if you've been to Oxford or Cambridge or at the very least assumes a familiarity with the English language.

'That's why, when I became vicar, at the ceremony I got a mix of participation because I wanted everyone to have an active role. One of the readings was in Punjabi as well as English.'

Trying to make a difference to lives numbed by unemployment, crime and poverty is the biggest challenge he has to tackle.

'The thing that hits you here in Aston is the lack of provisions for people,' he said. 'There were many more facilities in Sparkhill. There's a proposal to close the Neighbourhood Office at the moment and it all adds to the sense of Aston being left behind. …