New church ministers ‘excited to begin serving the people of Devon’
A former mental health nurse, teacher, business manager and puppeteer were among 14 women and men ordained as deacons (new ministers) in the Church of England at a packed service at Exeter Cathedral on 14 September.
The service was led by the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Rev’d Robert Atwell, accompanied by the Bishops of Plymouth and Crediton, the Dean of Exeter Cathedral and Devon’s four archdeacons.
Music was provided by Exeter Cathedral Choir, who processed in at the start, followed by the ordinands (candidates), the priests who had supported them through their training and other senior clergy.
Their ordination followed a rigorous selection process and two or three years of training at one of Devon’s two theological colleges: St Mellitus South West and the South West Ministry Training Course.
During the service each ordinand was presented to Bishop Robert to declare their belief that they had been called by God to ministry.
The ordinands then knelt around the altar and the bishop laid hands on each of them asking God to send his Holy Spirit down upon them.
Rev’d Phil Wales, who will be based in Exeter Cathedral, said it was a powerful moment: “When the bishop laid his hands on me, I just had a deep sense of inner peace, it’s almost impossible to put into words, it was so profound.”
The ceremony ended with the bishops leading the new ministers out of the Cathedral into the sunshine where they were congratulated by friends and family in a scene similar to a graduation ceremony or wedding.
Rev’d Gudrun Thomas, who will be serving in Kentisbeare and Blackborough, said: “I’m feeling relieved but very joyful, and excited to get on with my new ministry of serving the people of Devon.”
Gerda van Ommeren, who is orginally from the Netherlands and says she felt “called” to move to Devon, said: “I hadn’t realised I would feel that emotional about it, it really is that sense of thinking ‘yes, it starts here’ and the bishop is entrusting me with the care of people and that’s really special.”
The new church ministers will serve as deacons in church communities around Devon for 12 months. Most of them will then be “priested” and become curates. Some of them will receive a salary, others are self-supporting.
The Bishop of Exeter has said he is keen to encourage more young people from Devon, women and BAME candidates to consider ordination. To find out more please contact the Diocese Vocations Officer Hannah Mears or Diocesan Director of Ordinands, Rev’d John Fisher.