TV vicar heads down under

A SUFFOLK vicar made famous by a television series has said an emotional farewell to his congregation as he gets set to jet off for a new life in New Zealand.

A SUFFOLK vicar made famous by a television series has said an emotional farewell to his congregation as he gets set to jet off for a new life in New Zealand.

The county's church equivalent of Naked Chef Jamie Oliver has been credited with transforming St Andrews in Great Cornard since arriving four years ago - making it standing room only during his ever popular Sunday services.

Motorbiking priest Rev Jamie Allen shot to fame in 2003 when he became the star of BBC fly-on-the-wall documentary A Country Parish, where cameras followed him from an urban parish to a small traditional congregation in the heart of rural England.

The ex-DJ, who was born in Woodbridge, broke the news to his parishioners in Great Cornard on Sunday that he will be taking up a new role spreading the word of God in New Zealand subject to a visa application.

Speaking about his new appointment of Vicar of St Mary's, New Plymouth, Mr Allen said: “As a family, we will leave Great Cornard with heavy hearts, having made good friends here in an incredibly special church and community.

“I would say that we have had a wonderful, blessed time serving in the parish of St Andrew's - where the people have been just so loving and giving to live alongside and to minister with.

Most Read

“We anticipate moving in early October, so we will have been here four years by the time we move. Until then, there is plenty of time for us to spend with people and enjoy the Cornard atmosphere over the coming months.”

His wife Suzy said: “Some people were a bit sad. We are sad as well but also a bit excited.”

Her husband took the cloth in 1999. He originally wanted to be a doctor and studied chemistry, biology and physics in the sixth form at Woodbridge School, where his dad had been the head of physics.

He studied teacher training at Warwick University for four years, and taught for a while before “answering his calling”.

Rt Rev Nigel Stock, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said: “Jamie has brought a wonderful passion and imagination to his time in Great Cornard.

“I know that the parish will be deeply sorry to see him leave. The church in New Zealand will be served by a fine pastor and evangelist who will be sensitive to their culture and context. We wish him and Suzy and the family well, and assure them of our prayers.”