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Readers with 100 years’ experience now priested in York diocese

12 January 2024

‘No limits to what God can do’ says diocese of York

© Martin Sheppard/Diocese of York

The Revd Shirley Hebden at her ordination by the Bishop of Hull in St Leonard’s, Beeford, on Saturday

The Revd Shirley Hebden at her ordination by the Bishop of Hull in St Leonard’s, Beeford, on Saturday

SIX former Readers, whose vocation was first discerned by Lord Sentamu, were ordained priest in the diocese of York at the weekend. Already distinctive deacons, the men and women, with an average age of 70, and combined experience as Readers of more than 100 years, were priested at services by the Bishops of Hull, Selby, and Whitby.

One of the new priests, the Revd Shirley Hebden, has already served as Area Dean of North Holderness, and now becomes Priest-in-Charge of Beeford with Lissett and Dunnington with Frodingham and Foston with Leven and Brandesburton, in the East Riding. Her previous career was in adult education, working in prisons, college, and the community.

Three generations of her family were with Mrs Hebden on Saturday night for her ordination by the Bishop of Hull, Dr Eleanor Sanderson. As part of the service, Mrs Hebden, aged 77, was licensed as Priest-in-Charge of the benefice where she serves on a non-stipendiary, house-for-duty basis, with permission to officiate. “I have felt God surprising me and calling me every step of the way,” she said, explaining how study and prayer had been constant features of her life since becoming a Reader in 2013.

The other new priests are the Revd Diane Berry, the Revd Kingsley Boulton, the Revd Bronnie Broadhurst, the Revd Kath Dean, the Revd Jane Emson, and the Revd David Haddon-Reece. Each will continue to serve in parishes throughout the diocese.

Six years ago, as Archbishop of York, Lord Sentamu had met a number of Readers on his pilgrimage of the northern dioceses. He subsequently invited them “to consider whether their ministry is already that of a Deacon and to begin to discern with their incumbents whether they are being called to ordination” (News, 23 February 2018). A number were ordained distinctive deacons at the beginning of 2019 (Gazette, 18 January 2019).

The candidates, who were ordained along with two 2023 transitional deacons, were “recommended for ordination to the priesthood by a specially constituted national discernment panel last autumn”, a spokesperson for the diocese of York said. “Each candidate has engaged with the usual processes of post-ordination and in-service training and development during their five years in the diaconate, and will continue to take part in ministerial development programmes as appropriate.”

The Start of Ordained Ministries Adviser for the diocese of York, the Revd Mandy Coutts, said: “This group of seven deacons have an average age of 70; the eldest is 78. They are living proof that, when we have the courage to say ‘Yes’ to God’s invitation, there are no limits to what God can do through us.”

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