Under threat Ripley church seeks vicar

John Hirst with fellow parishioners who want a new vicar at Ripley Church. Picture: Adrian Murray

John Hirst with fellow parishioners who want a new vicar at Ripley Church. Picture: Adrian Murray

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Campaigning parishioners are calling on the church to give them a new vicar - and save their village vicarage from being sold off.

Parishioners in the United Benefice of Ripley, Bishop Thornton, Burnt Yates, Markington and South Stainley have been without a vicar for four months.

The post is currently being advertised but church goers in Ripley are now calling on the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds to speed up the process, as well as take the village vicarage off the market.

“Parishioners want to have their own vicar in residence in the village, in the vicarage,” said campaigner John Hirst.

“People come from all over the country to get married in Ripley. I was married there myself in 1959. It’s a nice little village, there’s a good Sunday school for the kids.

“If there were enough people against it we might stop the diocese from selling the vicarage.”

The benefice lost its vicar in January when much-loved priest Paul Cresswell died suddenly at the age of 61.

The five churches have been without a vicar since, with visiting pastors taking over services.

But, says the diocese, the recruitment process is well underway with applications for the post due to close next week. Interviews are expected to be conducted in June.

“Sometimes the church can be without a vicar for a year before anything is agreed,” said spokesman Canon John Carter.

“We are proceeding very quickly. Hopefully we will have appointed a new vicar by the summer.”

The vicarage itself, he said, was vacated three years ago when the vicar moved to a second house in Markington.

It’s been rented since, he said, but the diocese had now decided to sell it. It is being advertised for offers over £500,000.

“The decision was taken some years ago about where the vicar would actually live and he chose to live in Markington,” he said. “That decision is two or three years old.

“Where there’s no particular need for a vicarage it would normally be sold and that’s what’s happening in this case.

“The money will be used to support ministry in the area and throughout the diocese.”

The Revd Nicholas Henshaw, acting Archdeacon for Richmond, said he was “genuinely surprised” by the campaign.

“We’ve had regular meetings with parishioners - nobody has raised the issue with me,” he said.

“There’s never been a question of not employing a new vicar. And the vicarage hasn’t been used for three or four years.

“If there was a strong feeling about that they should have made representations to me during the process these past three months.”