Salford Diocesan priest recognised with special service award from Greater Manchester Police

A Salford diocesan priest has received special recognition for more than 20 years of service with Greater Manchester Police.

Fr Barry Lomax, Force Lead Chaplain for GMP, was awarded the Long Service Certificate from Chief Constable Stephen Watson QPM in a celebration event on Tuesday 26th March.

For the past 23 years, Fr Barry has served as a chaplain for Greater Manchester Police, providing a listening ear and much-needed support for force officers and staff of all faiths and none.

Last year, Fr Barry left behind parish life and embarked on a full-time position with the force to head up and grow the chaplaincy service at GMP.

Fr Barry explained: “I became a volunteer chaplain with GMP in the summer of 2001 and was appointed to serve Q District Oldham. Sadly, a few months prior PC Alison Armitage had been killed 5th March whilst making an arrest. Some years later, PC Nichola Hughes and PC Fiona Bone were also killed on duty and I remember well, like so many others, that terribly sad day.

“These tragedies – as you can imagine – had a devastating effect on the division, the whole of GMP and the community, but it highlighted the ministry chaplaincy could offer, remembering at that time chaplaincy was the original wellbeing before there was wellbeing.”

At the beginning of his service, Fr Barry was part of a vibrant, flourishing team of volunteers with a healthy number of chaplains in each district. Twenty years on, and the team is stretched with just one volunteer chaplain in most districts with vacancies still to fill.

Fr Barry said: “Looking back, we certainly enjoyed better times, but as those who know me will also know, I’m passionate about Police Chaplaincy and my aim as Force Lead Chaplain is to try and bring chaplaincy back to where it once was by being a presence around the force, and by recruiting ministers from the many faiths that serve our various communities who are pleased and able to give support to our officers and staff.”

On the beat in an ever-changing world, the role of policing today presents increasing challenges for our police officers, who may find themselves in dangerous and unknown situations every day of their working lives, taking its toll on their mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.

Fr Barry said: “It is estimated that 80% of frontline officers today in GMP have 3-5 years’ service, which considering the pressures of answering the needs of today’s society, is both daunting and a sobering fact. But whatever they may lack in experience, I find they more than make up for with their enthusiasm and joy.

“St. John Paul II once said that being around young people is infectious as they keep you young too. Since taking up my fulltime role a Force Lead Chaplain, I’ve certainly found this to be the case and our young officers are a credit to us. But we still need to keep in mind their age and experience, giving them all the necessary support and room not only to grow but sometimes to fail and learn as they continue to develop in their chosen profession.”

Based at GMP training school, Sedgley Park, Fr Barry is a familiar face for the new recruits from the very outset of their training; from meeting and greeting new student officers in the their first week and attending their attestation on day two to walking with them on those important first steps of their long journey.

But the support doesn’t end there: regardless of rank or religion, Fr Barry and his fellow chaplains are known and cherished throughout the service as a guaranteed offer of a listening ear and helpful conduit – confidential, impartial, and compassionate.

Speaking at the presentation of Fr Barry’s Long Service Award, Deputy Chief Constable of GMP – Terry Woods QPM – paid tribute to Fr Barry’s valued service, saying: “Fr Barry – as he is known throughout GMP – has volunteered for over 20 years. He has served with five Chief Constables. Chaplaincy was the fore runner to the wellbeing service that we now have in place and “Fr B” is one of the most well-known chaplains that we have.

“He’s always there to see how you are and offer a completely impartial listening ear. He has recently taken up the post of Lead Chaplain for GMP and looks after, and guides, a team of voluntary chaplains across the force.

“Fr B is a welcome sight at any event, with a word of wisdom, a joke or two and always a chocolate lime in his pocket! Congratulations, Fr Barry!”

Reflecting on this remarkable route his priesthood has taken, Fr Barry said: “Being part of GMP as their Lead Chaplain has allowed me the privilege of being part of the lives of our officers and staff too. The recent award I have received from the Chief Constable, my Long Service Certificate, to some may be just a piece of paper in a frame, but for me, my family, friends and colleagues, it’s a proud moment in my continued journey with GMP.
“It has been and remains to this day, a privilege for me to serve those who serve us.”