A RESPECTED Morpeth clergyman is bidding farewell to the town after 12 years’ service.
Rev Canon Robert McLean, who has served as the Rector of Morpeth since 2000, is retiring to the parish of Wylam.
The clergyman began his service in 1971 when he was ordained at Southwark Cathedral and spent all of his early ministry at parishes in south London and Surrey.
However, he has had an affinity with the North East since studying at Durham University and the role of the Rector of Morpeth, responsible for three churches — St Mary’s, St James’s and St Aidan’s — had a special appeal.
He said: “Morpeth was a different kind of parish from what I had experienced before, being a market town with three Anglican churches, a hospital and many care homes, and it was and continues to be very demanding in terms of the calls upon the clergy, but I have always been blessed with being able to work with some excellent colleagues. They have shared with me in the ministry and have been extremely supportive. Without them, I would not have been able to fulfil all the demands.”
As well as serving as Rector, Rev McLean was chaplain of St George’s Hospital and Morpeth Cottage Hospital until the roles were re-organised and was heavily involved with local schools, particularly Morpeth All Saints and King Edward VI School.
He also served as Area Dean, with responsibility for parishes stretching from Longhorsley to Stannington and Kirkwhelpington to Newbiggin.
And the 65-year-old played a big part in civic events, such as the annual remembrance services, Christmas lights switch-on, Hiroshima Peace Day and International Women’s Day when a service is held for Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison.
Rev McLean has been disappointed that projects planned to improve St Mary’s Church have been scuppered by criminals, with five lead thefts and vandalism to a valuable door and stained glass window taking their toll on finances.
But he said one of the highlights of his tenure has been the development of shared ministry, whereby parishioners are encouraged to take on more responsibilities.
“A thing that stands out is how over the course of the last decade or so we have witnessed within the church a very heartening development in the sense that we are very committed to shared ministry, which means more concern with being the church as opposed to going to church,” he said.
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“It is about enabling members of the church to share in the ministry of the church so that it isn’t just the clergy who do things, but it engages the skills and efforts of all baptised members of the church. That is expressed in the preparation of families for baptism, in the visiting of care homes and in caring for society.”
The Rector said it has been a privilege to share in the lives of people through personal events like births, marriages and deaths, and he will always remember the church’s role in supporting people through the Morpeth flood of 2008.
“The flood was a terrible traumatic event in the life of the parish and it was very important that the churches, not just the Church of England, were involved together in meeting the needs of people who had been so seriously affected,” he said.
The Rev McLean thanked the Morpeth Herald for its support and he wished Morpeth well for the future.
“It is an exciting town to be involved in with all the developments that have taken place in recent years and that are going to take place in the future,” he said.
“It is going to be, as it is now, a very desirable place for people to live and to share their lives with others. I hope very much that in the future the progress made by Morpeth will continue in that it will continue to grow as a vibrant and welcoming community.”
The Rector and his wife Susan will continue to visit Morpeth, which is particularly special to Mrs McLean as she first moved to the town with her family in 1965 and after a spell away returned in 1984.
She has been heavily involved in the church, leading Sunday School and Adventurers activity group, looking after linen and magazine distribution, leading intercessions and morning worship and serving on the Parochial Church Council.
Mrs McLean said: “It is a huge change for me to leave, but I think I’m ready for a positive new change. There comes a time when you are ready to move and I do feel that. I feel that we have done what we can here.
“Wylam is a different sort of community altogether, it is a big village rather than a small town, but I think it will be really nice.”
The Rector, who presided over his last Morpeth service on Sunday, will serve as priest in charge at St Oswin’s in Wylam.
The Morpeth parish will be overseen by the Area Dean Canon Dagmar Winter, working with the church wardens and local clergy, until a replacement Rector is appointed.