Clifford and Sarah McLelland were ordained deacon in Winchester Cathedral on 3 July, and have taken on a ministry that is being developed across nine churches in the cathedral city of nurture lay leadership.
They come from very different backgrounds. Cliff, who is 66, was a physical-training instructor in the army, and then ran an investment firm in Jersey. Sarah, who is 48, was a GP in Jersey for 14 years.
The aim of their new form of curacy is to empower the local community to such an extent that the curates will not be replaced at the end of their three-year placement. Instead, lay people will take on leadership positions.
“A lot of it is identifying, supporting, and encouraging people to get the appropriate training, whether it’s available from us in house, or they need to go off and do a course,” Mr McLelland said.
He came to faith about 20 years ago through conversations with a neighbour, who “said he had never been bombarded with questions as rapidly as he was then. He later was best man at our wedding.”
Mr McLelland took an Alpha course with the Revd Andy Perry at St Mary’s, Longfleet, in Poole. One day, over coffee, Mr Perry asked him: “How’s your call to ordination going?” Mr McLelland was taken aback: “I had no idea what he was talking about, and no intention of ever getting a paid job with the Church. I liked being a volunteer, where you can walk away from your responsibilities. But that conversation triggered the discernment process towards ordination.”
Mrs McLelland was brought up in the Church of England, but it was at medical school that she became involved in church events and leading worship.
After their marriage, the couple became involved in youth work. “I developed a real passion for the church as the centre of the community,” Mrs McLelland said, “as a place for mission and a centre for healing.”
The idea of going into ministry came out of the blue as the couple discussed Mr McLelland’s possible ordination with their vicar. “He asked if I was thinking of it, too,” she said, “and when he said it, it felt as if everything had come together and made complete sense.”