Ribble Valley villagers welcome new vicar

The Rt Rev Philip North (left) with new vicar Rev Williams
The Rt Rev Philip North (left) with new vicar Rev Williams

A new rural super-parish has been launched covering three Ribble Valley churches.

The new Church of England Bowland Benefice combines the congregations of St Ambrose Church in Grindleton and St Peter and St Paul's Church in Bolton-by-Bowland with St Mary the Virgin in Gisburn. It covers a vast rural area in the east of the Blackburn Diocese and includes the villages of Grindleton, Sawley, Bolton-by-Bowland, Gisburn, Rimmington and Paythorne.

Recently, at a special ceremony held in St Peter and St Paul's Church and attended by over 150 people, the new benefice was inaugurated by the Bishop of Burnley the Rt Rev Philip North and the Archdeacon of Blackburn the Venerable Mark Ireland, who welcomed First Rector the Rev. Mark John Williams.

Rev Williams, who was previously Team Rector of Worsley in the Manchester Diocese, began his working life in Grasmere, before teaching religious education for four years at Pleckgate High School in Blackburn. After theological college, he was a curate and then priest in Barnet, North London, before returning to his Northern roots and becoming vicar of St Matthews with Holy Trinity in Burnley, for eight years and then moving to Manchester.

The Rev Williams, who will live in the Rectory at Grindleton, is delighted to be returning to the Blackburn Diocese and is looking forward to meeting as many local people as possible.

He said: "I am looking forward very much to ministering in the newly-created Bowland Benefice. It will certainly be a different challenge to anything I have previously experienced , but hope to meet as many people as possible over the coming weeks and months. It is such a beautiful area to live in and I am truly fortunate to be here."