A MERSEYSIDE grandad has credited the Church Army – which is its celebrating 130 years anniversary – with changing his life.
Community worker Captain Dave O’Brien has worked across churches in Liverpool for more than 20 years.
The Church Army is marking the milestone in the organisation’s history at Liverpool Cathedral.
Toxteth-born Dave, 64, told the ECHO: “The Church Army is an arm of the Anglican church and the Merseyside branch has about 20 members working closely in the community.
“The Church Army has completely changed my life – I like many came to faith late on in life.
“I had a successful building business but I packed it all in to serve God full-time.”
Dave grew up on the Welsh streets and says he was once Ringo Starr’s paper boy.
He said: “I even sat on the front row of the Hard’s Days Night world premiere – Ringo gave me a ticket.
“My local church was St Philemon’s, I grew up there and even got married there in 1969.
“In 1985 I went with our vicar, the late reverend Colin Bedford on a week’s mission to Nova Scotia in Canada.
“There I met a girl who was working with the homeless. She made me realise I was just playing at it – she was doing real work that mattered.
“When I came home I saw an advert in the paper about the Church Army.
“Later I told my wife that I was thinking about packing in the business. I felt the Lord was calling me to work for him full-time.”
So at the age of 39, Dave sold up and moved with his wife and two children and headed to London where he trained with the Church Army for two years.
He said: “It just felt right. After that we moved back to Birkenhead and I spent four years at St James’s Church. When I first got there it was bad but we turned things around, we built up the youth group and we had over 100 kids attending.”
Nowadays, Dave spends his time with the congregation of St Thomas and All Saints Church in Ellesmere Port, where he now lives.
An average week will see Dave working with inmates at Walton prison, working with people with learning difficulties, giving assemblies in schools, laying on lunch three times a week for dozens of elderly people and working with people trying to fight their way out of debt.