Popular Burnley vicars say farewell

A CLERICAL couple taken to the hearts of parishioners as newly-weds in Burnley have said goodbye to their flocks.

The Revs Ian and Rachel Watts became well-respected and popular figures in the Burnley area soon after their appointments in November, 2004.

Mr Watts was Priest-in-Charge at St Cuthbert’s Church in Towneley Street, Burnley, and Canon Rachel Watts, who became Dean of Women’s Ministry for the Blackburn Diocese, was vicar at St James’ Church, Briercliffe. The couple, who met though friends, have a five-year-old son, Harry.

Parishioners from both churches held a get-together and supper at St Cuthbert’s Community Hall to thank them for their ministry and to wish them well in their move to Rutland.

There was not a dry eye in the congregation when the choir sang the “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” at the final service at St Cuthbert’s. Parishioner Mrs Jean Barnes said everyone was in tears at the farewell services as the couple have been so popular. “Everyone will really miss them,” she said.

Mrs Watts (43) has been appointed as Rector of Uppinham, Ayston and Belton with Wardley in the Peterborough Diocese and Mr Watts (47) is to become Pastor of Peterborough School.

Mrs Watts, who will be inducted on September 17th, studied at King’s College, London, before working for the Scripture Union in Zimbabwe. On returning to the UK she trained for the priesthood at Cambridge and was one of the first women in the area to be ordained. She became deacon and later priest-in-charge at St Mary’s Church, Clitheroe, returning to her native Norfolk to further her experience before being appointed as vicar at St Luke’s Slyne with Hest, Lancashire.

Mr Watts trained for the priesthood at Lincoln Theological College after graduating from Hull and was the priest in charge at St Mary’s Church in his home town of Newton-in-Mottram, Cheshire, before coming to Burnley. The church has just launched a £60,000 appeal fund for restoration work that must be done on the fabric of the 105-year-old building within the next five years.

Both St Cuthbert’s and St James’s churches are now in interregnum. Reader Mr Jim Scott will take some of the services at St James’s. Serving and retired local clergy are expected to help at Briercliffe and at St Cuthbert’s until new appointments are made, which could take between nine months and a year.