Words and pictures by Ken Bennett
SADDLEWORTH’S newly-appointed team rector has delivered a strong message to the community saying church is not for the ‘holy few’.
Rev Canon Sharon Jones was speaking after her induction at Holy Trinity Church, Dobcross as the new CE team rector of seven parishes and nine churches.
Mingling with her new congregation afterwards, she declared: “Our church buildings are not to preserve the ‘holy few’ but places of opportunity and inspiration for whole communities.
“I believe the church should be a place of open hearts, open minds and open doors. All are welcome regardless of age, gender, ability, race or sexual orientation.
“In uncertain times the church can be a refuge for the troubled, a place of healing for the broken.
“As Archbishop William Temple said many years ago: ‘The church exists for the benefit of those who are not its members’.
“I believe in a church living in love and service to the community, grounded in prayer and worship.”
In addition to thanking her new flock, the canon thanked former parishioners from St Andrews Dearnley and Wardle church, and her family, friends and colleagues from around the country who attended.
And she paid tribute to two “inspirational” women in her life – her mother Mary Hudson, herself a priest in Birmingham and her aunt, Helen Elliott, who encouraged her vocation.
The minister, whose hobbies include playing the saxophone, added “I’m looking forward to getting to know the Saddleworth community and to be available to any who need support, guidance and encouragement in their seeking after God.
“Saddleworth attracted me for its sense of community and the potential for the churches to be a living, vibrant and prayerful presence,” she declared.
Rev Canon Jones studied English and Theology at Liverpool University before training for the ministry in Durham.
She was first licensed in 1985 and spent seven years in parishes in Birmingham before moving to Northumberland.
She was one of the first women to be ordained in 1994 and served as a prison chaplain for 13 years including HMP Forest Bank in Manchester.
The service was led by Rt Rev Mark Davies, Bishop of Middleton, assisted by the Venerable Cherry Vann, archdeacon of Rochdale.
Also in attendance was Rt Rev Rupert Hoare, a retired bishop, The Mayor and Mayoress of Oldham, Cllr Derek Heffernan and his wife Di, and Cllr Pam Byrne, chair of Saddleworth Parish Council.