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Newly weds among first ordinands to swear allegiance to the King

12 September 2022

Matt Prior/Diocese of Exeter

The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell (centre, right) with the Suffragan Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Jackie Searle and the new deacons

The Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell (centre, right) with the Suffragan Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Jackie Searle and the new deacons

IT WAS special enough that husband and wife Peter and Elizabeth Burren were ordained together in Exeter Cathedral at the weekend, but the event was made more significant because they were in the first cohort of ordinands to swear their oath of allegiance to King Charles III.

“It came at the end of a week that we will never forget,” said Mr Burren. He will serve his title alongside his wife in the Haldon Mission Community of eight churches around Teignmouth. “Nobody quite expected the week to go that way. It was unusual, but great.”

Diocese of ExeterPeter and Elizabeth Burren before their ordination

His wife said that the lead-up to Saturday afternoon’s service had been quite different. “Normally, the Bishop would come to meet us on our pre-ordination retreat the day before to do his Bishop’s charge and hear our oath and declaration, but that couldn’t happen because he was in London following the Queen’s death.”

Instead, they had to wait until Saturday morning, after the Accession Council in London had confirmed the new King’s title, before swearing their oaths of allegiance. “We did that just minutes before the ordination service,” she said. “King Charles made his promises that morning of what he would be and what he would do for the nation with the guidance and help of Almighty God and then there we were, making our promise of allegiance to him. That just felt really right, to be promising allegiance to this man who had just himself made promises to the nation and asked God’s help in that.”

Her husband said: “One of the things I took great inspiration from was — if you want to know what a life of service looks like you just need to look at the Queen. It was a whole life lived of service to everyone around them.”

Being ordained together made the day extra special, said Mrs Burren. “It was lovely to be able to support each other. Neither of us felt nervous and you would have expected that. It just made the whole day very relaxed, more comfortable, having someone close there with you.”

The couple, both aged 53, trained together at the South West Ministry Training Course, in Exeter. Mrs Burren, who was previously a bookkeeper, will serve as a full-time curate, and her husband, a policy writer, will work part-time as a distinctive deacon.

“Although we are a married couple, our ministries do stand up all on their own,” Mr Burren said. “We are very confident in doing what we do on our own, but our ministries are going to be inextricably linked for the rest of our lives.”

Among the 15 people ordained on Saturday by the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Robert Atwell, was Robin Smith, who was encouraged to explore ordination by a curate at St Matthew’s, Plymouth. “I went away and prayed and asked God to make it clear if this was his call for my life. I asked for two things: That within 24 hours he would give me a clear sign that ordination to become a priest was what he wanted me to do, and secondly to get someone to tell me that I had a lion’s heart and a call to Christian leadership.

“In the middle of that night, I suddenly woke up and was instantly wide awake with a picture of a book from my bookshelf in my mind’s eye. I felt a strong compulsion to get up and turn specifically to page 73, which to my amazement was on the subject of ordination to priesthood.”

At church the next day, the vicar paused at the end of the service to tell the congregation that he had a feeling that God wanted them to know that someone among them had a lion’s heart and a call to Christian leadership.

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