A primary school teacher, physiotherapist, civil servant, solicitor, marketing manager, Royal Military Police corporal, vet, librarian, youth worker, farmhand and a Brigadier in the Army.
These are just some of the latest cohort of new priests and deacons to be ordained to serve in The Church of England in Lancashire
The group of 24 – the largest for some years – went on retreat at the Diocesan Centre for Christian Discipleship and Prayer at Whalley Abbey in the Ribble Valley, in order to prepare for their ordination services at Blackburn Cathedral.
There are 12 deacons and 12 priests, 15 of whom are aged 40 or under. Nine of the ordinands are women and 15 are men.
Candidates hail originally from right across Lancashire and as far afield 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, serves at St Thomas’ Church in Barrowford and St Mary’s Church Newchurch-in-Pendle.
Reflecting on the past year, Amy said: “People have really missed human contact, singing together and receiving the Eucharist. However, churches have also been great at supporting people in their communities in new and continuing ways.
“Churches have also been impressive at adapting to changes in regulations and the creativity they have shown has encouraged me. We have also learnt 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 days, and it undoubtedly sustained me throughout my military service.
“But when I retired seven years ago, I never dreamt that God would start calling me towards ordination. He did, and over time the call became absolutely irresistible.”
The Chaplain for the Retreat at Whalley Abbey is the director of vocations for Blackburn Diocese, Rev Nick McKee. He said today: “Each year in our diocese we see a fresh 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 pursuing their vocations and to be part of their journey – particularly during what has been a difficult year for everyone.”
Rt Rev Julian Henderson, the 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 in three services at Blackburn Cathedral.
Bishop Julian said: “We pray for all those to be ordained deacon and priest. The last 14 months have been traumatic for our world, our nation and our church. But even at times like these God is always asking, whom shall I send?
“Although we are now presented with huge challenges as we begin to unlock, there are equally huge opportunities as we look to the future of Christian life in our nation.
“So, it is a humbling moment for Bishop Philip, Bishop Jill and I to be able to ordain men and women who have responded to His call and will be able to inspire and encourage our congregations, especially now.”
Bishop Philip added: “This is an exciting time for all our priest and deacons of course, but also for their friends and families who will be supporting them and for their parishes across every part of the wonderful county of Lancashire.
“When they arrive in their parishes, they are being sent by God to be part of His work already underway there and to tell people about our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
“In that sense the work of priests and deacons never changes. But we live in an ever-changing world, particularly now as the pandemic continues. Amid that change there seems to be an awakening of faith in our nation, with new fringes and stronger relationships.
“We pray our ordinands will be able to tap into that new openness to the gospel message and bring a fresh perspective; especially to people who may be considering following Jesus for the first time ever.”
Bishop Jill said: “Amid the darkness of the pandemic these past 18 months, our amazing parishes have been beacons of hope for our communities, supporting the people they serve in so many creative ways.
“It is into these parishes that we will send our latest cohort of 24 priests and deacons to bring great glory to God as they share the good news of Jesus Christ with those they live amongst and minister to.
“As we emerge and unlock from this crisis, we will have a new commitment to the mission of God in His world and our ordinands will be at the vanguard of His work. I look forward to hearing about the many blessings He has been able to bring through them.”