‘Whatever opportunities I get, I’m going to take them’ says Sheffield’s ‘punk’ vicar turned catalogue model

Andy Rushworth.
Andy Rushworth.

Minister, youth worker, model, landlord, bouncer, writer, actor.

Andy Rushworth has been all these things and more in a life so full it seems impossible he has fitted it all in to his 50 years.

First and foremost he has been a minister for the last 27 years - since he was just 23 years old.

He perform wedding ceremonies and funerals but isn’t your typical pulpit pontificator, to put it mildly.

Covered in tattoos and with a magnificent white beard, he has been called the ‘punk vicar’, but claims not to like the moniker.

He says: “I love church but it also really does my head in because it hides a really relevant and powerful message behind all this tradition.

Andy Rushworth in Harvey (photo: Smart Banda).

Andy Rushworth in Harvey (photo: Smart Banda).

“I have never been one for sitting in an office. I prefer to walk alongside people.”

He has been getting tattoos professionally since he was 30 and now has two full ‘sleeves’, and each tattoo has its own special meaning.

“God gave me a canvas so I am just painting it,” he says.

“My tattoos are the story of my life. I’ve got 1991 for the year I was married and the stars for where my wife’s thumbs rest when we hold hands.”

Andy Rushworth (credit: Joe Browns).

Andy Rushworth (credit: Joe Browns).

He has been involved with Christianity since being born into a family of church planners, spreading god’s message to places which didn’t already have places of worship.

As a result, he travelled a lot as a youngster, his siblings being born in Australia and Canada and Andy starting life in New Zealand.

He eventually moved to Sheffield with his family after he ‘fell in love’ with the city while working as a youth worker in Park Hill in the 2000.

But after a decade in the Steel City, he moved his family to the American state of South Carolina in the late noughties for a few years after his daughter recovered from leukemia.

Andy Rushworth.

Andy Rushworth.

Now 23, Beth graduated as a nurse last year and now works at Sheffield Children’s Hospital alongside some of the same people who saved her life when she was a little girl.

On his return from the States he took a break from church work, got his door licence and worked in a snooker club on Abbeydale Road as well as opening up in a paper shop three mornings a week.

But after his son got mugged in broad daylight at a bus stop eight years ago, his life took a turn back towards the spiritual once more.

“As a dad I wanted to slap the living daylights out of the kids that did it,” he says.

“But they accidentally put us in the same room as them and I just wanted to hug them.”

It is from that chance occurrence that sprang Andy’s current project - Shine - which sees him take a band called The Plan to schools in the hope of inspiring young people make better choices.

“Prevention is better than cure,” says Andy.

“We wanted to see if we can get into school and change these young people’s lives and raise their aspirations for life.

“Some of them are second, third and fourth generation on benefits and they don’t think they are ever going to make anything of themselves.”

“We just try to help them learn to develop the talents that everyone has.”

Andy – who lives with his wife Sharon in Nether Edge – turned 50 in December last year and the big birthday had the effect of focusing his mind on what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

“When I turned 50 I thought I am definitely in the second half of my life now,” he says.

“My prayer to god was whatever opportunities you give me to do I am going to take them.”

In that spirit he auditioned for the 53 Theatre Group and got cast in a recent production of the play Harvey at the Library Theatre in Sheffield as Dr Chumley.

Last year he also had a book published and his unconventional appearance has recently led to modelling assignments for Joe Browns’ autumn, winter and Christmas collections.