The Church of England in Lancashire have ordained a new cohort of priests and deacons, welcoming a GP, a teaching assistant, a bookseller, a call centre worker, a professional musician, and a construction worker to the faith.
Ordained at Blackburn Cathedral by the Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley, and the Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, the 19 new deacons and priests - the highest figure since 2013 - are all raring to go, 'eager' to get to work in their parishes to help fulfill the Church's ‘Vision 2026: Healthy Churches Transforming Communities' project.
Many of the newly ordained candidates are under the age of 40, with the youngest being just 29 and the oldest, 68-year-old Stephen Large at St Cuthbert’s Burnley with St Luke’s Brierfield, himself a converted hippy.
"I was a hippy during the beginning of the 70s," said Stephen, who is from Burnley and is married with two children. "I felt the calling from God and followed it. Having left school at the age of 15 with no academic achievement I started my training with All Saints Centre for Mission and Ministry with an element of trepidation, but also with a determination to answer fully my calling."
A former construction worker who enjoys walking, gardening, and socialising with friends and family, Stephen continued: "I have never feared a challenge. Jesus said many times, 'follow me' and I was determined to follow Jesus's challenge no matter what the cost.
"Our churches are big houses in neighbourhoods of houses and we need to get to know our neighbours and they need to get to know us," he added.
Rt Rev. Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley, himself said: "Every year we see a new group of men and women of all ages responding to God’s call to become a Priest or Deacon in His church. It is an exciting time for all of them and for their parishes which are scattered across Lancashire.”