THE REVD Andrew James will be taking his most loyal parishioner with him when he moves churches – his Labrador, Coco.

For the past seven years Andrew’s chocolate brown pet pooch has been a popular fixture at All Saints Church in Rhiwbina – but now the pair are on the move to Dinas Powys.

Andrew is to be licensed as priest-in-charge of the parish of St Andrews Major with Michaelston-Le-Pit, where he takes over from the Revd Huw Rhydderch who retired last year after 20 years as Rector.

“I think my new parishioners are looking forward to meeting Coco as much as meeting me,” admitted Andrew, who will be licensed by the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan at St Peter’s Church, Dinas Powys on Wednesday, June 11, at 7.30pm.

“Coco comes along to all my services and lies down at the front and is very well behaved.....although he does occasionally do a big yawn during my sermons or even falls asleep and snores.

“He even used to join in and when I said The Peace and would sit up and lift his paw to be shook when I got to him – but he’s stopped doing that now as he realises he’s not going to get a treat.

“Everyone knows him as I take him everywhere with me on my visits in the parish and he is a real ice breaker,” said Andrew, who is married to Karen.

It was when their daughter Olivia, who is now 12, turned five that the couple decided to get a dog as a pet for her to grow up with.

“I knew that I would also want to take him to work with me as during my training I worked with a vicar who took his dog out with him and I saw how effective a tool he was in ministry," he said.

“So we knew that we needed a friendly well behaved dog and a show labrador was the perfect choice as they are more docile than working labradors. He was christened Coco, because his kennel name, Amazing Clown at Amberside was a bit of a mouthful.

“There is a large congregation at All Saints and many attend after I’ve met them out walking Coco - they’ve come to see him in church and stayed.”

On his day off, Andrew likes nothing better than to take off for a ride on his motorbike to places like the Brecon Beacons – but after getting a number plate ending in REV to celebrate his 10th anniversary of being a priest – his ministry work often follows.

“Part of the idea of going off on my bike on my days off is to have a break away from the vicarage but now with the number plate people are always asking me if I’m a vicar – despite the black leather and big sports bike – and that one simple question often leads to many interesting conversations. As a result it means that I am doing ministry on my bike as well.”

Andrew will be responsible for St Andrew’s Church, St Andrew’s Major, St Peter’s Church, Dinas Powys and St Michael’s in Michaelston-le-Pit. “My full name is Andrew Peter James – so I nearly got the full complement of namesake churches.”

Originally from Yorkshire, Andrew moved to Wales to study Behavioural Science at the University of Glamorgan before training for the priesthood. He was ordained as a deacon in 1999 and as a priest the following year.

He served as curate in Tremorfa, Cardiff for two years and then in Radyr for five years. For the last eight years he has been team vicar for Whitchurch with responsibility for the 100 plus congregation at All Saints Church, Rhwibina.

The Archbishop, Dr Morgan, who appointed Andrew said, “Andrew will bring his gifts of encouragement and enthusiasm to Dinas Powys and people will find in him a good pastor and listener. I look forward to licensing him.”

Andrew will also be licensed as associate priest of the Parishes of Sully, and Wenvoe with St. Lythans in a cluster arrangement. He continues in his diocesan role as ecumenical officer.