John Fall has been a church warden for 45 years
A Churchwarden from North Yorkshire has been declared the country's 'Unsung Hero of the Rural Church' and recognised for his hard work on behalf of the local community in a national competition.
John Fall, a retired farmer from Kirklington near Ripon, has been churchwarden of the parish church of St Michael, Kirklington for the past 45 years.
He received his award from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, at a ceremony at Lambeth Palace.
Mr Fall was one of twelve finalists, from all over the country, who were shortlisted from more than 100 nominations. Organisers were looking for volunteers, of any denomination, who keep alive rural churches or chapels as thriving hubs of the local community.
Supported by his wife Rosemary, his fellow warden, Derrick Potter, who nominated him, Kirklington rector, the Revd Dr Julie Nelson, and friends and supporters, John said he was "surprised and stunned" at being awarded the accolade:
"At first I thought it was a practical joke! I don't look at it as a personal award, but it is for the parish and particularly for my wife who does all the work behind the scenes - hospitality, the social side and so on - she is the real 'unsung hero'!
"To me it is a privilege to serve this church and community. I am biased but I think the church is a vital part of the community, here for those who don't come, but may one day want to use it, as well as those who do."
Presenting the award, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: "John Fall represents one strand in the life of the rural church in that he comes from a family that for generations has been deeply involved in their community and church life. He has made himself wonderfully indispensible to the church and community and it's a delight to congratulate him on this achievement."
John has now surpassed the achievement of his cousin, known locally as 'Grandad Potter' who was churchwarden before him for 44 years. His sister was also a churchwarden for 14 years. The Fall family have lived in the same house for 350 years, and the responsibility has been handed down the generations - John is currently training his son to be a churchwarden.
Rector of Kirklington, with Burneston, Wath and Pickhill, the Revd Dr Julie Nelson, said John had shown excellent leadership over the years:
"John has played a key role across the united parish - encouraging and supporting the other churches and churchwardens. John has the ability to get along with all sorts of people. He has a delightful sense of humour, and I have never heard him say a bad word about anyone."
"He has the trust of the whole community - both here in Kirklington and more widely. He and his wife Rosemary are most generous with their hospitality, and are always quick to welcome newcomers into the villages."
The national competition was organised jointly by Country Life magazine and the Church of England.