Page last updated at 13:15 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 14:15 UK

Flock shocked by 'tramp' minister

The Reverend Derek Rigby in disguise  (picture:
The clothes, from a charity shop, were ripped and doused with lager

A minister posed as a tramp and gatecrashed his own service to teach churchgoers about "acceptance".

The Reverend Derek Rigby donned a wig and some torn clothes and surrounded himself with lager cans and syringes in the church doorway on Sunday morning.

Most of the congregation at the Trinity Methodist Church in Prestatyn, Denbighshire, ignored the intruder.

Mr Rigby said most were "embarrassed" by their behaviour when he finally revealed himself during the service.

The former police officer had told the congregation he would be late for Sunday's service, and only informed one church member of his true plans, in case anyone decided to dial 999.

See the Reverend Derek Rigby talking about his stunt

The minister said he did not shave for three days and drew on tattoos to make his appearance more convincing.

He said: "I couldn't take the car in case anyone spotted it, so I walked from my home to the church. That was interesting, because my neighbours avoided me.

"I had bought clothes from a charity shop - which were immaculate - so I had to dirty them up a bit and I poured a bit of lager on them.

"When I got to the church I arranged a couple of cans and some plastic syringes, without needles, which I have at home for the dog. It gave the impression of a real down and out."

He added: "None of them spoke to me, apart from a few who told me off and told me to get away from their cars, which they kept checking.

"They all ignored me."

The Reverend Derek Rigby in his usual attire (picture:
The minister plans to throw his "tramp" clothes away

He waited until the children had left the church to join their Sunday School before walking to the front of the building and revealing his identity to the congregation.

He said: "Some were very embarrassed. Nobody was angry with me but they were shocked they had ignored me in the way they had.

"They could have given me a cup of coffee.

"I was surprised rather than disappointed. Some people said they wished I had been there because I would have known how to deal with the situation."

Mr Rigby said he had intended to communicate a "serious message of acceptance in an emotive way", and used the example of the Disciples not recognising Jesus on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection.

He said he had tried a similar stunt twice before in Newport and London - where the congregations had been more generous.

He added: "I told them they were stingy because I had been given as much as 4.50, a packet of biscuits and a blanket in the other places, but in Prestatyn I got nothing.

"Although, I'm sure that wouldn't happen again."

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