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Clergy in Suffolk getting younger as church aims to replace retiring vicars

PUBLISHED: 14:08 26 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:08 26 June 2017

Bishop Martin Seeley, with newly ordained priests, from left, Simon White, Karen Burton, Charlotte Cook, Susan Foster, Maximilian Drinkwater and Penelope Brinkley. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM

Bishop Martin Seeley, with newly ordained priests, from left, Simon White, Karen Burton, Charlotte Cook, Susan Foster, Maximilian Drinkwater and Penelope Brinkley. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM

Record numbers of men and women – including those aged in their mid 20s – are coming forward to serve as Church of England clergy across Suffolk.

Charlotte Cook and Maximilian Drinkwater. Picture: KEITH MINDHAMCharlotte Cook and Maximilian Drinkwater. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM

Those in training in the county have risen by 90% over the past two years, from 10 at the end of June 2015 to as high as 19 at the end of this month.

Training for the clergy takes up to six years and at the weekend the Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, ordained 14 newest priests and deacons, who will be working to make a difference in their communities.

Their backgrounds include previous careers in the London Stock Market, nursing, restaurants and the NHS.

The new clergy, who bring both youth and decades of experience to their new roles, will serve in parishes including Ipswich, Felixstowe, Walton, Bury St Edmunds, Hadleigh, Woolpit, Lavenham, Aldeburgh, Saxmundham, Newmarket and the Stour Valley.

Bishop Martin Seeley, with ordained Deacons, from left, Elke Brunhilde Emma Cattermole, Joanna Stacey Mabey, Ernest Okeke, Lynda Anne Sebbage, Nicolas Jon Stuchfield, Donna Gibbs, Matthew Selman and Herbert Michael Birt. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM PHOTOGRAPHYBishop Martin Seeley, with ordained Deacons, from left, Elke Brunhilde Emma Cattermole, Joanna Stacey Mabey, Ernest Okeke, Lynda Anne Sebbage, Nicolas Jon Stuchfield, Donna Gibbs, Matthew Selman and Herbert Michael Birt. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM PHOTOGRAPHY

Bishop Martin welcomed the new clergy at two services at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds.

He said: “I am thrilled by the upsurge in the number of candidates for ordination in Suffolk, particularly among younger people, but also across the whole age range.

“People offering for ordination is always a sign of the spiritual health of a church, and of individual congregations.

“The Church nationally has committed to a 50% increase over the next five years as older clergy retire after decades of service. In Suffolk we are appointing much younger clergy into these posts.

“The increase in those being accepted for ordination training in this diocese is due to a very active recruitment programme especially among younger Christians, making people aware that this might be where God is calling them.”

The Rt Rev Dr Mike Harrison, Bishop of Dunwich, said he is delighted to see callings to the ordained ministry increasing rapidly in Suffolk.

The Very Rev Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, added: “It’s always an enormous pleasure to welcome everyone to the Cathedral for the inspiring occasion of ordination.

“It’s a time when we all come together in joy as one by one those ordained offer themselves and their futures to God and the Church in ministry.”


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