A teacher, a physiotherapist, a civil servant, a notary, a marketing manager, a corporal of the Royal Military Police, a veterinarian, a librarian, an educator, a farm worker and a sergeant in the army.
These are just a few of the latest cohorts of new priests and deacons to be ordained to serve in the Church of England in Lancashire.
The group of 24 – the largest in recent years – retired to the Diocesan Center for Christian Discipleship and Prayer at Whalley Abbey in the Ribble Valley, to prepare for their ordination services in Blackburn Cathedral.
There are 12 deacons and 12 priests, 15 of whom are 40 years old or younger. Nine of the ordinands are women and 15 are men.
Applicants are from all over Lancashire and as far away as Basingstoke, Cambridge, Brighton and overseas in Germany, Italy and Finland.
The youngest candidate is a deacon and the oldest is a priest. Amy Bland, 24, will serve at Euxton Parish Church, while David Hargreaves, 63, a former brigadier, will serve at St Thomas Church in Barrowford and St Mary’s Church in Newchurch-in-Pendle .
Reflecting on the past year, Amy said, “People have really missed the human touch, singing together and receiving the Eucharist. However, churches have also been excellent at supporting people in their communities in new and ongoing ways.
“The churches have also been impressive in adapting to regulatory changes and the creativity they have shown has encouraged me. We also learned new ways to make services accessible through technology.
David said: “My faith has always been an important part of my life, right from my school years, and it has undoubtedly supported me throughout my military service.
“But when I retired seven years ago, I never dreamed that God would start calling me to ordination. He did, and over time the appeal became absolutely irresistible.
The retired chaplain at Whalley Abbey is the director of vocations for the Diocese of Blackburn, the Reverend Nick McKee. He said today: “Every year in our diocese we see a new group of men and women of all ages responding to God’s call to become a priest or deacon in his church.
“It is a joy to see them continue their vocations and be part of their journey – especially during what has been a difficult year for everyone.”
Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn; Rt Rev Philip North, Bishop of Burnley and Rt Rev Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster, each ordained four of the priests into three services at Blackburn Cathedral.
Bishop Julian said: “We pray for all who will be ordained deacon and priest. The past 14 months have been traumatic for our world, our nation and our church. But even in times like these, God always asks, who should I send?
“Although we now face enormous challenges as we begin to unlock, there are equally huge opportunities as we look to the future of Christian living in our nation.
“So it is a moment of humility for Bishop Philip, Bishop Jill and I to be able to ordain men and women who have responded to his call and who can inspire and encourage our congregations, especially now. ”
Bishop Philip added: “It is an exciting time for all our priests and deacons of course, but also for their friends and families who will support them and for their parishes in all parts of the wonderful county of Lancashire.
“When they arrive in their wards, they are sent by God to be part of His work already in progress there and to tell people about our Savior, Jesus Christ.
“In this sense, the work of priests and deacons never changes. But we live in a constantly changing world, especially now that the pandemic continues. In the midst of this change, there seems to be an awakening of faith in our nation, with new fringes and stronger relationships.
“We pray that our ordinands can tap into this new openness to the gospel message and bring a new perspective; especially to people who may be considering following Jesus for the first time. ”
Bishop Jill said, “Amid the darkness of the pandemic over the past 18 months, our incredible parishes have been beacons of hope for our communities, supporting the people they serve in so many creative ways.
“It is to these parishes that we will send our final cohort of 24 priests and deacons to bring great glory to God as they share the good news of Jesus Christ with those among whom they live and serve.
“As we emerge and come out of this crisis, we will have a new commitment to God’s mission in his world and our ordinands will be at the forefront of his work. I look forward to hearing about the many blessings he was able to bring through them.