NEWLY ordained priests from the more affluent parts of England are reluctant to move to distant parishes in more deprived parts of the country, the Bishop of Berwick, the Rt Revd Mark Tanner, warned this week.
He pointed out that, while several dioceses in southern central England produce more ordinands than they have vacant curacies, new incumbents and curates can be unwilling to move away (News, 7 February 2014). “There are mission fields in the estates and deprived rural areas of the north and far west and east of the country that need priests.
“God is at work in these places. When people answer his call to bring the gospel to these places, seeds of hope begin to sprout.”
He was speaking on Wednesday on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, in Northumberland, before the departure of the yacht Rival Star, which is now recreating the sixth-century voyage by St Cedd to bring Christianity to Essex (News, 18 May).
The Bishop of Barking, the Rt Revd Peter Hill, who will help to crew the boat from Ipswich to West Mersea, in Essex, in his home diocese, said: “St Cedd travelled from Holy Island to evangelise the people of Essex; now we need to return the blessing and encourage ordinands to consider God’s call north.
“We know there are very real practical challenges for people to move away from family, friends, and what is familiar, but we need to trust that God has already gone before us and is making a home for us elsewhere.”
The Revd Paul Arnold, a Chelmsford ordinand who recently took up a curacy in the diocese of Durham, said: “I discounted it as a possibility, until a friend showed me a tweet calling for a planting curate in Stockton-on-Tees. I could feel the hairs prickling on the back of my neck. It was scary: we would be hours from our parents, but it was such an exciting adventure.
“My family and I have not looked back. There is a tangible sense of Christian history in the area: you are walking in the footsteps of people like St Cuthbert and St Aidan. There is so much happening here, so much love and warmth in the community. It’s exciting; God is at work in this place.”
The voyage to Essex is part of the Navigators of Faith mission round Britain, following the journeys of the early evangelising Celtic saints. It is the idea of the Revd Dr Howard Worsley, Vice-Principal of Trinity College, Bristol. “These early navigators of faith have much to tell us by their reliance on God as they took to small boats to bring us the story of Jesus,” he said. “I hope that our journey can in some way inspire others to set out to unfamiliar places in reliance on God.
“Those areas south of the ‘Watford Gap’ might now be seen as being rather more prosperous than their northern counterparts, and that it is now the opportunity of the south to give back to the north of England by sending missionary priests to areas of greater deprivation.
“In this, the current Anglican Church would be demonstrating a spirit of Kingdom love that was so well exemplified by the early Celtic saints.”