Former Suffolk county council leader Mark Bee is ordained in the Church of England
- Credit: Archant
Former Suffolk County leader Mark Bee is about to be ordained as a Deacon in the Church of England – and will be working in his home parish of Beccles.
But he has no plans to pull out of local politics and will be seeking re-election to Suffolk County Council in next year’s election. He is currently chair of the authority’s scrutiny committee which examines the decisions made by the cabinet and council.
Mr Bee has been involved with politics since his university days when he was elected as President of the Student Union at Westminster College, Oxford.
Studying for a degree in theology in the 1980s, he had every intention of moving towards ordination, but his career took a different direction.
He has been a Conservative councillor on Beccles Town Council, Waveney District Council and at Suffolk County Council. He has held the top jobs at all the authorities, having been Mayor of Beccles and leader of both Waveney – twice – and the county councils.
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His faith has always been important to him and he said: “I have been a Christian for more than 40 years and it has always been a big part of my life. Politics took over from what I was working to achieve so this is something that has been building up to this time in my life.”
It was during his time as county council leader that Mr Bee came to know Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.
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He said: “After the 2017 General Election, Bishop Martin asked me to chair a working party looking at clergy numbers throughout the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. It was this that sparked a renewed idea that I could still perhaps play a role in the church.
“I had to go through a selection process of formation and discernment with lots of interviews and discussions with various individuals.”
Mr Bee was due to be ordained as a deacon at St Edmundsbury Cathedral however the ceremony has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, he was licensed as a minister online and will act as a self-supporting minister within the Beccles parish, fulfilling his duties as part of a team.
He said: “Sitting in full cassock in a Zoom meeting being sworn in by the bishop was certainly a little different! However, our proper ordination will be held at the cathedral on September 5 when the Bishop will lay his hands on me to officially become a deacon.
“My training will then continue while working in the Parish of Beccles at St Michael’s and St Luke’s under the supervision of Revd Rich Henderson. That will prepare me for the second ordination next year when I will be ordained as a priest.”
He added: “I can’t quite believe it’s happening to be honest. It’s really exciting, and the more I have read and been part of an excellent group of like-minded people, the more it feels like I’m in the right place at the right time. I’m in my mid 50s and taking on a whole new career path. I cannot wait to continue moving forward.”
But his political life will continue. Mr Bee said: “I shall still be the Conservative agent for the Waveney Constituency and the council elections and I certainly plan to stand again in next year’s county council elections.”