Reverend Dr. Nick Fisher is the current locum at the Anglican Church in Palma. He decided to join the church after retiring from the police force in order to carry on what he felt his calling was in life - to help people and protect the vulnerable from bullies and be there in times of hardship and confusion.
Having studied English Literature at university, Dr. Nick joined the West Midlands police force, and during his full service worked his way up to becoming a Police Inspector of Constabulary for the Home Office, which involved inspecting over half of the country’s police forces.
Having left the family at home in Birmingham, he became a “promotion dad” and was posted to Manchester where he found himself needing to find something to fill his spare time.
“I had already done a Masters by research in English Literature so I completed a PhD in 17th century English poetry. Once that was completed and I had left the police force, I managed to have my thesis published through the University of London, where I had been appointed to a fellowship in the Institute of English Studies at Senate House, researching literature and politics during the reign of Charles II,” he told the Bulletin last week.
As part of his drive to get his thesis published, he went on various one-month research fellowships over a period of five to six years to Chicago, where there are a number of excellent libraries of poetry. "The Americans are very good with these things, they cover certain costs on the quid pro quo that should anything be published, they receive full credit in return - it works very well.
“During my research, I was persuaded, bullied is not quite the right word, by my Bishop, who I had come to know quite well during my time in the police force, to put myself forward for ordination.
“I had been a lay reader with various religious responsibilities for some 15 years, so I did. I came from a ‘church cradle’ if you like, surrounded by a church-going family, so I suppose it seemed the obvious path to follow. I got through, was ordained in 2008 and fulfilled ten years of ministry in Gloucestershire, which continues to be home today. While I could have remained in the Midlands, I wanted a rural parish because I felt then, and still do today, that the church has to some extent neglected rural areas, so that was something I was determined to do.
“Gloucestershire became home and I served the church until I reached 70, retirement age. I was granted a short extension but I still felt there was plenty of gas left in the tank, so for the past 12 months I’ve been serving the European chaplaincy circuit, which is very nice. I’ve been in Tenerife, having taken my Spanish A Level only to find out that in the Canaries they speak a totally different kind of Spanish. Then I spent a short time in Torrevieja, eastern Spain, then Hamburg and now here until the end of the month. Then it’s back home to quarantine in Gloucester and a new posting in the New Year.
“Despite the current situation, I am thoroughly enjoying it here. I know it will have only been for a couple of months, but that’s not a bad length of time because, whereas in Torrevieja I was only there a few weeks, a couple of months or so give you time to connect with the congregation and the community, for people to get to know you and trust you and to be able to make a contribution. It’s all slightly different right now, with contact and one-to-one time so limited and restricted, but at least we have the wonderful weather and environment here in Mallorca and we are allowed to enjoy the fresh air.
“But numbers in church are limited, hence why I conduct two services every Sunday and one midweek and there’s no singing. I think we managed to enjoy a week’s worth before it was banned, but we do get some humming in. It’s a shame because this is a very health and energetic congregation, plus we have a number of Nigerians who are extremely passionate, wonderful with kids and love nothing better than a good sing, but there’s little we can do about that right now.
“The congregation is well blessed here with a couple of retired members of the clergy who work here, so their spiritual health is pretty good. And there appears to be a great deal of earthy Christianity, which is very refreshing for someone from a rather middle-of-the-road Anglican background.
“That said, a lot of people, especially the aged, are very frightened right now. They are scared of Covid and, certainly in the UK, they are being encouraged to be frightened of it. I picked that up very strongly and to a certain extent here. Some of the elderly don’t go out or come to church. I don’t know who they are and I can’t visit because of the lockdown.
“So, for me, it’s not an entirely satisfactory role, or for any clergyman because the pastoral side has been decimated. But nonetheless, we are worshipping, we’re doing what the church is there for and that is to offer worship. We just do the best we can. We hope we can hang in there, and once the restrictions are lifted get back to being a proper and supportive congregation.
“I suppose the situation has made me change my message or sermon slightly. Behind all this we have this pandemic. I would not say it is going to take us all the way, but it could and it does bring about the discussion about what the Christian faith is all about and that there is another life. God is our creator and cares for each of us, and if you regard this life as preparation for the next life, then I wouldn’t say it makes sense. But it makes it easier to bear, although we’ve been deprived of 50 per cent of having a good time in Mallorca and we’re being prepared earlier or moved on earlier for what we are here for. I may sound a bit pious but we all do need encouragement.
“Plus, at the back of all this has been the American election, which has been amazing. We have Boris Johnson in the UK and there’s Brexit, so there’s all this swirling uncertainty and whether that makes more people willing to listen to the Christian message I don’t know. But it probably does, so they get the Christian message about what we’re here for, how we should be behaving, caring for people - the church is emphasising that - in whatever way you can by looking out for people. Here people are being encouraged to bring food in for the food banks, and the congregation has been very generous, especially at the Harvest Festival. That gave a good gauge, if you like, for people to realise just how much we have to be thankful for and to think about others.
“But unfortunately, not having the opportunity to talk to so many people as I would like or normally do, it’s difficult to say if people are reflecting more on life and how their situation is. I do have a certain amount of contact with the church team but, yes, I do miss not being able to have contact with members of the congregation or the community at large. But my faith has always been there and it was a great help at times when I was in the police force.
“Being in the police certainly gave me the opportunity for pastoral work. I’m not talking about pastoral work in the sense of the church but with regard to helping people who were in difficulties. I wanted to join the police because I felt a calling to support the weak against bullies. That embraces a whole variety of things - people exploiting others and taking advantage of them - so I do think that people need to be stood up to, and the police gave me an opportunity to do that and also to help society. I think that’s very important. I think we should have an uncorrupted, or as much as possible, police force which serves and helps people. That was one of the strengths of the police force when I was serving, I felt it was able to do a lot more than it does now. I don’t want to be too political but I do think that reducing the numbers of police officers - I know we’re very expensive - is a mistake.
“I introduced police community support officers in Stockport when I was the Superintendent up there. I wasn’t just me having a bright idea, it was riding on the back of the local council which wanted to do things to help people who were unemployed get back into work. So I came up with this scheme for PCSOs - a friendly face on a busy street in the centre of Stockport where commercial ground was some of the most expensive in that part of the country. With the construction of a new out-of-town shopping centre, some of the large retailers were worried that, due to the costs, their profits would reduce. For example, Marks and Spencer said they wouldn’t go because they expected to lose some 10 per cent of their profits.
“So I said that, as far as the police were concerned, we would enhance our presence and the council also said that it would put in people in a sort of uniform so they would have an official presence. I ended up training eight of these people. The idea was that we would give them a job for 12 months and dress them so that they stood out but at no time look like police officers. We made sure they looked smart, were polite and were seen around. Within the space of three months, crime in the centre of Stockport, in the shopping centre fell by 23 per cent.
“Everybody soon took note and thought this was a good thing. Various people came up to talk, including the current head of the Metropolitan Police, Dame Cressida Dick, and before I knew it the Met. took the scheme on and it was eventually rolled out across the country. That is one of the things I am most pleased with when I look back on my career in the police force, and through the church I have been able to continue taking what I believe in forward, and I intend to do so for many years to come, wherever I may be.”