The bible is given to newly ordained priests

Twenty-Two people from diverse walks of life and all ages from twenty-four to seventy will be ordained as Priests and Deacons in the Diocese of Durham at ceremonies to be staged across the Diocese of Durham this coming weekend September 25th – 27th.

Breaking with the tradition, this year, the first time in living memory, ordinations will be conducted under strict social distancing conditions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ordinations for Priests are being held in small groups in Sunderland Minster (25th Sept), Barnard Castle, St Mary’s (26th Sept) and Durham City, St Nic’s (26th Sept); whilst Deacon Ordinations will be held in Durham Cathedral in two groups on Sunday 27th September.


Those to be ordained Priest by the Bishop of Durham,

The Right Reverend Paul Butler


Priests Parish Ordination Place / Date Age M/F
Daniel Ackerley Stockton on Tees, St Peter and Elton, St John Barnard Castle, St Mary: 26th Sept 28 M
Rory Balfour Hillside Sunderland Minster: 25th Sept 27 M
Sarah Cliff Barnard Castle and Whorlton Barnard Castle, St Mary: 26th Sept 53 F
Jane Easterby Norton, St Mary and St Michael Barnard Castle, St Mary: 26th Sept 55 F
Claire Elwood Durham, St Nicholas Durham, St Nic’s: 26th Sept 51 F
Elizabeth Hollis Belmont and Pittington Durham, St Nic’s: 26th Sept 28 F
Abbey Hughes Durham, St Giles and Shadforth and Sherburn Durham, St Nic’s: 26th Sept 64 F
Richard Penman Sunderland, St Mary and St Peter (Group Ministry of the Annunciation) Sunderland Minster: 25th Sept 66 M
Anthony Smith Spennymoor and Whitworth (Spennymoor Group Ministry) Sunderland Minster: 25th Sept 40 M
Christopher Watson Sunderland Minster Sunderland Minster: 25th Sept 68 M


Daniel Ackerley was born and brought up as part of a close family in Stockton-on-Tees. After leaving school and college, he worked for a short time as a semi-professional musician, teaching and performing. For the past 8 years, he has been Principal Funeral Director at John Duckworth’s- a small, family firm in Sunderland and South Shields.

He said: “From a young age, I was a chorister at St Peter’s Church in Stockton-on-Tees, which gave me a love for God, the Church and liturgy. My faith grew and developed whilst at Ian Ramsey School and I became involved with the Christian Union. People began to ask me if I was going to be a vicar. As a schoolboy, this seemed ridiculous but as time went on, the sense of call grew and wouldn’t go away.

“I am serving the parishes of Stockton on Tees, St Peter and Elton, St John as a self-supporting curate as I continue with my role as a Funeral Director.”


Rory Balfour, was born in a vicarage in Peckham, South East London, where his father remains a vicar. Through his university years at Durham, he was heavily involved in Church, Christian Union (CU), youth work and missions both in the university and with para-church organisations. He moved to Rutland to work as an assistant chaplain at a school and then went to Ridley Hall in Cambridge to begin training for ordination. Whilst at Ridley Hall, he started exploring a vocation to academic study and, as a result of this, applied to postpone his ordination date to begin work, back in Durham, on a PhD.

He said: “I had two years in Durham working on a PhD in Old Testament theology and being part of the community at Cranmer Hall, before being ordained last year. I continue my studies in curacy.

“I feel called to talk to people about Jesus and see people align their lives more fully with his Word, with his plans and with his purposes.“

Sarah Cliff was born and brought up in Darlington, leaving school at 16 to start work as a trainee dental nurse and later in credit control, working mainly in engineering and transport sectors. Her last role before full-time ministerial training was as a credit manager for a PLC. Sarah is married to Gary and has one adult daughter.

She said: “I do not come from a church family but around the age of 11 I was aware of God’s presence and took myself off to the nearest church to find out more. I found myself in my local parish church and there I was nurtured and grown in faith. God’s call on me came later in life; first to Reader ministry and then ever louder until I gave in and started to discern a call to ordained ministry.”

Jane Easterby was born near Corbridge, in the Tyne Valley and was baptised at St Mary’s Church, Throckley. Her family lived in Rowlands Gill and in 1973, moved to Leeds. She studied European Studies at Hull University and spent a year at the University of Avignon in France, before joining Courtaulds Textiles as a management trainee. She has worked in France and the UK in Sales & Design roles. In 1998, she completed an MSc in Recreation Management, based in the Department of Sports Science and the Business School at Loughborough University.

After leaving Loughborough, She moved to Cumbria and had a number of part-time jobs, including lecturing in Business, Management and languages at the local university and college, running a music school and managing the parish centre at St. Andrew’s, Penrith for four years.

She returned to the North East to retrain as a Primary Teacher in 1995 spending 8 years as a primary teacher with a variety of curriculum and management responsibilities, including music, RE, PSHCE, Humanities and International Coordinator. She led two schools to gain the highest level of the International School Award, developing connections between schools in India, South Africa, Holland and the North East through the British Council.

Jane left teaching in 2013 when she was appointed Director of the Durham and Newcastle diocesan retreat house, Shepherds Dene. Recently, she has begun a new ministry, working as a hospital chaplain at North Tees University Hospital and after ordination, will serve my title in the benefice of St. Mary and St. Michael, Norton.

Commenting on what brought her to ministry Jane said: “it was a call from God in 1995, a desire to discover what purpose God has for me in my life, and then more than 20 years of exploring and discernment and the affirmation, encouragement and support of friends and family.”

Claire Elwood was born in Southport, Merseyside and spent her early years in Northern Ireland in the height of ‘The Troubles’. She has lived in the East Midlands for 31 years. She is married to Tim, a photographer, whom she met in Nottingham when she was training as a nurse. She has worked with pregnant teenagers and delivered private postnatal support services on a self-employed basis. Claire and Tim have 3 adult children and 2 grandchildren.

Asked about what her to ordained ministry Claire said: “ I felt the need for some theological training to accompany a ministry amongst students and others within the night-time economy of Nottingham City Centre. That led me to the Church Mission Society’s Pioneer Leadership and Ministry course and whilst studying with them I began to discern, despite my best efforts to avoid it, a further call to ordained ministry.”

Elizabeth Hollis went to school in Lichfield where she grew up.  She obtained a BA Hons first from Exeter in German and French and then spent a year in Berlin, where she had her first full-time job and her first experience of living in another country.

Liz said: “The year abroad was a really important year for me in many ways. At the end of this year, I spent some time with the Taize Community in France which greatly inspired me. After Exeter, I moved up to Durham to start a Masters in Translation Studies. It was during this year that I began to feel a strong sense of calling to ministry so after I’d finished the course I went to London to do a year-long ministry experience scheme in Hackney. This was another really significant year and a great time. I then moved straight from London to starting at Cranmer Hall in 2016.

“I grew up going to church every week and faith has always played a central part in my life. My mum was licensed as a lay-reader when I was small and was very active in our local church. Whether or not I realised this at the time, I think her ministry was an important influence for me.

Liz says that Her main hobby is singing which she loves! She particularly enjoys singing in choirs and working together with other people as well as baking cakes!

Abbey Hughes I was born and brought up in Gateshead and lived there until my early twenties. I attended primary and secondary schools in Gateshead and then spent three years at Ilkley College of Education where I qualified as a Home Economics teacher.

After college I returned to the North East and commenced my teaching career in St. Aidan’s RC School, Newcastle before moving onto St. Edmund Campion RC School, Gateshead. It was there that I met Joe, my husband. In 1979 I was received into the Catholic Church and in December of that year, we were married in St. Peter’s RC Church, Low Fell, Gateshead. We have three children; two were born in Gateshead and our youngest in Norwich where we moved following Joe’s promotion.

During my teaching career, I held positions of responsibility both in RE and in the pastoral side of the school. I was also successful in my application to become a magistrate and have served on the South Durham Bench for ten years.

When I retired early from teaching to look after our first grand-daughter I decided to deepen my knowledge and understanding of theology and ministry. I enrolled as a part-time student on the MA in Theology and Ministry at St. John’s College and was awarded my Master’s Degree in January 2017. Subsequently, I became a parishioner at St. John’s Neville’s Cross, becoming an Anglican and began studying with Lindisfarne in September 2018.

Following my ordination as Deacon on 15th December 2019 I commenced my curacy with Rev. Tom Glover at St. Giles, Durham, St. Mary’s, Sherburn and St. Cuthbert’s, Shadforth. Right from the start Tom and I forged a very positive partnership and I experienced a real sense of this placement being right for me and felt instinctive that this was where God wanted me to be. 

Richard Penman was born in 1954 in Sunderland, His Father and grandfather were coal miners, so he came from a coal mining background. He attended Southmoor Technical School in Sunderland. 

He said: ” When I was 20yrs of age I joined the Tyne & Wear Metropolitan Fire Brigade, retiring in 2008 after 34yrs service. I was a very enthusiastic sports person especially football and cricket, representing the fire service in both sports, as well as playing in the local leagues.

“In 1970 I met my wife Stella and we were married in St Thomas’ church in Pennywell in 1976, we have a daughter Sarah and son Christopher. Stella and I were foster carers for nearly 30yrs looking after about 30 children in that time!

“In 1999 I began studying to become a Lay Reader and was licenced in Durham Cathedral in 2002 and served the parish of St Thomas’ Pennywell and The Group of the Annunciation in that capacity until 2019.

“Although my grandparents were caretakers at the Ayres Quay Mission in Deptford Sunderland and very devout Christians, I was only brought to the faith after meeting my wife Stella. After many years of trying for a family, we attended a Lent course on The Power of Prayer, and after praying in earnest we got our greatest gift, a daughter, it was then I decided to dedicate my service to God in whatever way I could.

“In 2017 I had a life-changing event when I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer which made me re-appraise my life and the path it should take.”

Asked what get him out of bed in the morning Richard said: “Literally the joy of being alive, looking forward to the beauty and challenges of the new day and the chance to be with family and friends.”

Anthony Smith grew up in Hitchin in Hertfordshire. He obtained his first degree in Maths from Cambridge, where he was also an organ scholar before going on to Sussex University for his MSc in Cosmology and a PhD in astronomy. He moved to York where he married Eline and worked in computer software development. He trained for ordination at Cranmer Hall in Durham.

Anthony said: “Despite having been in church services most weeks for all of my life, by the time I was ten I was a firm atheist and thought this religious stuff was a load of nonsense. But I think I wanted to believe, not least because I was getting very keen on church music and playing the organ. When I was 15, I started going to the youth group of a local Bible-believing church. In 1996 this church held a youth service. The preacher’s text was Luke 9:23: (Then he [Jesus] said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.) He encouraged us to commit our lives to God, and I did so, out of a real sense of God drawing me to himself.

“When I came to a living faith at age 15, it was a very powerful moment in my life, and I knew God was calling me to follow him with my whole life. For a long time, I thought that might mean me serving God as an academic astronomer. I’m deeply committed to the importance of Christians serving God in all areas of life. But I found that my heart wasn’t fully in astronomy. I had been very involved in the life of my local church and had a year between some bits of study when I worked for that church. That gave me some initial experience at various aspects of church ministry: preaching, leading Bible studies, pastoral visiting, various aspects of practical service. I carried on serving in those areas when I returned to university, and gradually it became clear that my heart lay in church-based Christian ministry.

“I had grown up in the Church of England, but at this point, I was in an independent evangelical church and then joined a Baptist church when I moved to a different part of the country. But as I thought about which church I wanted to offer myself to serve in, it became clearer and clearer that the Church of England was the right place for me.”

Christopher Watson studied Theology at Durham University 1989-92.

He said: “I was born and brought up in the village of Whitburn, and have lived in the Sunderland area all my life. I was a sales executive for many years in the wholesale stationery trade working around the villages of County Durham, Cleveland & Northumberland. I then worked for a few years for Collins Liturgical Publishers, travelling from North Yorkshire & Lancashire up to the North of Scotland including Iona. I then had the opportunity to go To Durham University to study Theology which led to taking a teaching qualification in Religious Education and History.

“After several years teaching R.E. & History full time I became a supply teacher, in later years specialising in teaching children with special needs. I was also a tutor in adult education, not just in Philosophy but also in my personal interests of Local History and Genealogy. Since I retired in 2015 I have become an Amateur Archaeologist with the Northern Archaeology Group and a member of the Durham Archaeological & Architectural Society.

“I have been an active Christian all my life which has been a long journey of faith from my first inklings that God wanted me to be a minister as a teenager, which at the time seemed a totally impossible goal, to have the opportunity in my late thirties, to study theology at university and to teach. Throughout the last 50 years, I have served at the altar as a server, from acolyte, crucifer & thurifer to master of ceremonies and sub-deacon, as well as serving on Deanery & Diocesan Synod, yet always I have felt the imperative call to further my ministry, to baptise, to bless and to officiate at the Eucharist. For many years I said ‘No’, for various reasons, work, health, family, but eventually, in 2016, I was compelled to submit to His will and say ‘Yes’. As soon as I did everything began to fall into place to enable me to go forward towards ordination.

“My biggest Challenges in life have been to overcome physical disability as a child and health issues in later life, and to gain the educational qualifications that had seemed so distant a prospect when I was young.”


Those to be ordained Priest by the Bishop of Durham,

The Right Reverend Paul Butler in Durham Cathedral

Deacons Parish Ordination Place / Date Age M/F
Hilary Avent Hetton Lyons with Eppleton, St Michael and St Nicholas Durham Cathedral : 27th Sept 69 F
Philip Carter Castleside, St John and Benfieldside, St Cuthbert Durham Cathedral : 27th Sept  70 M
Graham Copley Hunwick and Willington Durham Cathedral : 27th Sept 58 M
Tommy Daglish Stanley and South Moor (Derwentside East Group Ministry) Durham Cathedral : 27th Sept 34 M
John D’Silva Houghton le Spring, St Michael and All Angels Durham Cathedral : 27th Sept 26 M
Elaine Gray Hebburn, St John with Jarrow Grange, Christ Church in plurality Durham Cathedral : 27th Sept 58 F
Rosemary Hendry Crawcrook Church of the Holy Spirit and Greenside, St John Durham Cathedral : 27th Sept 57 F
Wim Kuiper Sunderland, St Matthew and St Wilfrid Durham Cathedral : 27th Sept 59 M
Stephanie Price Bishop Auckland Durham Cathedral : 27th Sept 38 F
Hannah Richardson Peterlee, St Cuthbert Durham Cathedral : 27th Sept 24 F
Mahalha Wachepa Durham North Team Ministry Durham Cathedral : 27th Sept  52 F
Alison Williams Wheatley Hill, Thornley and Wingate with Hutton Henry Durham Cathedral : 27th Sep 33 F


Hilary Avent said: “My first calling to formal ministry was to Reader ministry – the call from God as a layperson, to preach, teach, lead worship and be involved in the church’s ministry in other ways. I trained from 1997-2000 and was licensed in the Cathedral in September 2000.

“I have been married to Grahame for 9 years after meeting him on holiday in Crete in 2003. I have a daughter, Clare from my first marriage. Clare lives in a small village called Hook, which is just outside Goole in East Yorkshire with her husband James and Bruce their English bulldog. 

“Grahame and I have lived in Houghton-le-Spring since 2009, but we worship at St. Michael’s in Easington Lane, in the Parish of Hetton Lyons with Eppleton. I have attended St Michael’s for many years, joining a few years after moving to Easington Lane in 1965 and returning after the breakdown of my first marriage. I soon became involved in various activities, including teaching in Sunday School and being a PCC member.  Grahame joined the congregation after he moved from Stevenage prior to our marriage and we married in our church, surrounded by our family, friends and church family in 2011. I have been a Licensed Reader in the parish for almost 20 years.

“My working life has given me the opportunity to work in a variety of roles, from being a Civil Servant at the beginning of it, then to self-employment, running a retail outlet, working as a florist and managing the family business with my father who sadly died in 1992. I then moved into training and education, working in various roles, qualifying as an assessor, then a lecturer in a Further Education College and ending my career as a manager in a training company, from which I retired in November 2015.

“I’m afraid retirement didn’t really appeal, so when the opportunity of applying for a part-time role as Community Development Worker with Hetton New Dawn, a Faith in the Community charity closely linked to the church, came up in 2016 after the sudden death of the previous worker, I applied and was offered the role. I have been working for the charity since then and also volunteer as a Coordinator of Loaves & Fishes foodbank.”

Philip Carter Was born in Trowbridge, Wiltshire in 1950, the elder of two sons. His father was a civil servant and moved around as vacancies and promotions took their course. His mother was a housewife but took some part-time work with the civil service when available. 

He said: “In 1961 I passed my 11+  and won a place at Sir Thomas’s Rich’s Grammar School in Gloucester where my father was then posted. In 1962 we moved to Wolverhampton and I attended the Wednesfield Technical Grammar School. I gained 9 “O” Levels in 1966 and three “A” levels in 1968. I read a joint honours degree in Botany and Geology at Durham, gaining an upper second in 1971. 

“I met my wife, Jean, to whom I have now been married for 48 years whilst at university in Durham. We have two daughters, Kathryn, A GP in Houghton-le-Spring, and Jennifer who works as a financial clerk for a charity in North Shields. We now have two grandsons.

“Both my wife and I became teachers, Jean in special needs, and I joined the staff of the then Whinney Hill  School in Durham as a science teacher. I moved to the Durham Johnston School in 1979 where I was given responsibility for the teaching of General Science. I rose through the ranks, firstly as Head of Biology and then, in 1999, Head of Science, leading a department of 12/13 teachers and the school’s 4 technical staff.

“In 2007, following retirement, a visiting priest taking the service during an interregnum whispered to me at the end of the Eucharist that I should ”look after them”. As a result of his remark, I enrolled with NEOC on the Readers’ course and I was licensed to the Parish of St John in Castleside in 2010.

“I have always been involved in the community. As graduates living in a category D ex-mining community, my wife and I were often asked to read and write letters for our neighbours and to explain the contents of letters from the local authority or the Social Services and Employment agencies as required. I was the secretary of the local residents’ association for 6 years. I helped to run community events and the local carnival. I now act as chaplain to the local Air Training Corps Squadron.

“Perhaps I am the type of person who needs to be told that others see in me something that I do not always see in myself. In 2018 the Area Dean told me that I should explore ordination. During conversations with local area deans, retired clergy and my own parish priest, the response has often been ‘I wondered how long it would take ‘, or ‘what took you so long?’ The fact that they could see in me more than I could see in myself has convinced me that this is where my somewhat belated vocation lies. I now desire to be more useful to God, my parish and God’s people.”

Graham Copley was born in Pontefract, Yorkshire, in 1962.  He said: “I left school aged 16, doing various labouring jobs before becoming a postman. In 2001 I moved to rural County Durham. I am married, have two grown-up children and two dogs.”

Graham trained for ordination at Lindisfarne College of Theology.



Tommy Daglish said:I became a Christian through prayer around the age of 10. I met my wife Donna when we were both 16 and have two beautiful daughters Tabitha and Mia. Before training I was a civil servant for 13 years and felt a strong calling to ministry about 6 years ago. 

“I trained at Cranmer Hall and I had the best time of my life! 

“When our first daughter Tabitha was born, I reflected a lot on my life. I wanted to be the best dad I could be, and to be that I knew I had to be the best Christian I could be. I always felt called to ministry ever since I was at school, but never felt smart enough or worthy enough. Then I felt God showing me that all the barriers were things I put in place, not him and I could do this. I had tremendous help from many people along the way and it felt like I was on the right path.”

Asked what gets him up in the morning, Tommy said: “As soon as I wake up I say a little prayer just thanking God for a new day and all my blessings and asking that I am able to do what he wants me to do that day and to give me the strength I need for the work at hand.”

John D’Silva grew up in Rotherham. He left to go to university in Durham where he studied maths and chemistry. While studying, he began to discern a vocation to ordained ministry. He trained for ordination at Westcott House.

John said: “I enjoyed studying physical sciences, but I found that I was more interested in what was happening at church than the jobs that were available to me. A chaplain at the university suggested I go look at an internship in a group of churches in Sunderland. After a few months there it became increasingly clear to me that ordained ministry was the right way forward.”

Elaine Gray trained for ordination with Lindisfarne College of Theology. She said: “I live on my own now but spend a lot of time with my two wonderful daughters and

four amazing grandchildren, who certainly keep me fit. I have always been a very active person, thriving in playing outside and engaging in a variety of sports during my youth.

“I have worked for the local government of South Tyneside since 2007, the majority of that time as a homelessness caseworker. This often involves working in crisis situations, with those that have been marginalised and also have complex needs.

A role that can be very challenging and both emotionally and physically draining has also brought great blessing. There have been many wonderful stories of success, when those that had lost all hope, managed with some help, to turn their life around.

There are sadly many distressing ones also, though being a Christian has really helped me and helped me to help others when dealing with such tragedies.

“Since becoming a Christian 10 years ago I have a whole new family and take great delight in spending time involved in church activities and events, which obviously spills out into the community.

“Having Jesus in my life has made the relationship with my own daughters and grandchildren even richer. We have all come to faith in this relatively short time and no matter what challenges we have, we work through it together with Jesus in the midst of it all.

“Although my individual calling has been to one of ordained ministry, nothing is more important than the first calling, that is the one to follow Jesus. That’s what has brought me to ministry, my desire to tell people about Jesus and to help make more disciples.

“Returning to academic studies after such a long time has also posed its challenges and in the first year, it was like pushing a huge boulder up a hill! But after that, although it has been exhausting at times it has been rewarding to be challenged in that area. Balancing my studies with a demanding job and continuing to give quality time to my family has been extremely difficult at times. It highlighted the importance of looking after my own personal well being and taking the necessary time to rest.”

Rosemary Hendry was born in Rowlands Gill, part of a family of four boys and three girls, which taught her how to share from an early age. 

She said: “We had little in terms of money but enjoyed great fellowship! Mam baked bread and cakes each week and friends could always be invited home for tea, after school. 

On Sunday mornings I’d usually be with my hard-working, organised mother in St. Barnabas Church at Rowlands Gill. Although church members were friendly and I appreciated ‘The Stations of the Cross’, I didn’t understand who the ‘Holy Ghost’ was. That understanding was to come much later.

“If I was with my father on a Sunday morning, we’d travel to the Quayside Market in Newcastle and afterwards frequent a pub where the Law Courts stand today. Whilst Dad enjoyed a pint, I’d enjoy a drink of juice and The Observer newspaper to read, as I patiently waited for him. Ironically, I believe that gave birth to my love of reading, which has never left me. 

“I’ve been married to Mike for 25 years. We work well together as a team.  In the early 90s, we ran a youth club. In the late 90s, we volunteered to set up a bible college in a deprived area of Nairobi. I gained employment in the Consular Section of the British High Commission, on local Kenyan rates of pay, but free use of their swimming pool!

“One adventure lasted several years, in learning beekeeping to enable eight Malawian men to set up a beekeeping business in Malawi. Today ‘Azunguya’ operates a maize mill, which the village lacked, financed by friends, family and Greenside Parish. I am indebted to Mike’s practical skills and family in Malawi, that enabled this vision to flourish.

“Whilst on holiday a few years ago in the Dominican Republic, I embarked on a course to obtain the PADI diving certificate, which entailed me having to overcome a great fear of drowning, a sense of being unable to breathe or ‘reach the surface’ in time.

“The last three years have been spent with husband Mike, studying with Lindisfarne College of Theology – a great adventure of learning, friendships and formation.”

Wim Kuiper was born and grew up in Zwolle (Netherlands) as the youngest of four. He graduated in Social Sciences and Law and finished his PhD in Political Science, as he was working as a lecturer and researcher at the University of Maastricht. 

He said: “In this period my three children, Anne, Vincent and Clemens, now in their thirties, were born. I also have three grandchildren, aged 1, 2 and 7.  I was elected as a full-time local politician in the city of Maastricht in 1993. After eight years I became the policy director of the Dutch Local Government Association. In the cause of a painful divorce in 2007, my faith deepened and I found my church home in the Church of England, first in The Hague and then in Utrecht. Before moving to Cambridge to start theological training in 2018, I was the director of the Dutch Association of Protestant and Catholic Schools.

“A few years ago I was discerning what kind of job the Lord was asking me to do in this phase of my working life. To my own surprise, I experienced a strong sense of calling to the priesthood. I was brought up with the church, but there has also been a period in my life where I had lost the connection. Later in life, I rediscovered how important the church is for me, in good and bad times. It offers a place to meet God in word and sacrament, to sense the community with my fellow Christians and to bring faith, hope and love into the wider society. Sharing and passing on the light of Christ is so much needed, especially in these challenging times. So I am looking forward to contributing to this through my ministry.”

Stephanie Price grew up in County Durham in a loving non-church going family, after a couple of enjoyable years living, studying and volunteering in Newcastle, she decided to leave and join HMRC working as a civil servant for sixteen years prior to training. 

She said: “I am married to Ian, with two children (Oliver 15 and Jessica 11). I became a Christian after seeking baptism for my eldest and myself. I was confirmed and baptised, soon after the exploration and became an active member of the church serving and leading in various ways. After discernment I started training at Cranmer Hall in Durham, leaving the civil service to train full time, whilst remaining in our home.

“This has been an unexpected call on my life, and not something I had ever envisaged in my future. But once I came to faith and discovered I could have a relationship with Jesus, that I was loved and known by him, it changed my life and began to shape everything I did. I grew in relationship with God over the years and tried to faithfully serve his church. 

“After many years of avoiding any kind of call on my life after a difficult time, I put my hands up and said to God, okay I’m yours, asking him to reveal and direct what he wanted me to do. With the support of my friends, family and church I accepted and discerned a call to ordained ministry. This still surprises me daily, a lot more than I think it surprises others, but I am excited to see where God will continue to lead me.”

Hannah Richardson grew up in Maidstone, Kent, before moving to Durham to study Theology at university in 2014. She said: ”I was not religious at this point; I had (what I thought was) a purely academic interest in the subject, but as I began my studies and met more Christians, I realised that I was being drawn into something deeper. I began attending St. Oswald’s, Durham in late 2015 and was baptised and confirmed the following summer. At the same time, even just before I was baptised, I started sensing a call to ordination. I initially shirked from it, since I thought I was too young in years and in my faith, but God had other ideas. I began discernment a few months later, and after graduation in 2017, I spent a year working as a Ministry Assistant in the Group of the Annunciation, Sunderland, as part of the Durham CEMES. Whilst there I continued my discernment to ordained ministry and was recommended for training in the spring of 2018.

“I’ve spent the past two years studying for ordination at Westcott House in Cambridge continuing my theological studies, and I’m really excited to be coming back to the diocese in which both my faith and vocation were nurtured.

“It’s the witness of other people which brought me to church and to Christ in the first place; it was other people who identified the vocation God has given me and who encouraged me in my discernment, and it’s other people who continue to support me and to show the love of God through their actions and their lives. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that life in all its abundance (John 10:10) is a fundamentally communal thing.

“One of my biggest challenges was stepping into a church for the first time. My perception of Christianity was mostly negative (with most of my exposure being to ultra-fundamentalist theology online), and I spent so long preparing myself to go and then bailing on a Sunday morning because I was worried that I wouldn’t fit in, especially with all the questions I had. But I received such a warm welcome and it was a relief to find out that wrestling with questions and seeking answers was a firm part of Christian discipleship and not something to be done fearfully and alone.”

Mahalha Wachepa was originally from Malawi, Southern East of Africa. Her name Mahalha means patience. She said: “I thank my parents for giving me this name which has influenced my personality and I am indeed patient. 

“I was born and raised up in a large Christian family. My father is a retired priest and my late mother was a teacher. Together with my 12 siblings, we were baptised when we were children and attended Sunday School and church every Sunday. Growing up in a strong Christian home, I accepted Christ our Lord as my personal Saviour at an early age. I grew up facing different challenges, poverty, social inequality, gender inequality and violence, and poor healthcare facilities. Overcoming these were helped by my faith in God, praying every day and consistently. Prayer has been part of my life since young.

“I attended primary education in different schools, secondary education at St Mary’s and Mulanje, and tertiary education in Mzuzu, Malawi. I trained as a teacher and taught at Bambino and Lilongwe Academy Private Primary schools, then Chilambula and Chigoneka Community Secondary schools in Malawi. 

“I am married to Dennis and have been blessed with 4 children aged 30, 23, 19 and 16, and a 10-year granddaughter.

“I came to the United Kingdom in 2002 with my family and lived in Leeds until 2010.  My first engagement was working as a volunteer at the school where my children attended. I was a classroom assistant for 2 years. I later moved to work as the health care assistant looking after the elderly with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. This was my first experience working in health care services, my patience helped me in taking care of the elderly. 

“I later moved from Leeds to Stockton-On-Tees in 2010, where I continued to work in health care services.”

Talking of her biggest challenge, Mahalha cites the loss of her 4-year old child to meningitis saying: “My faith has been really important to me, I was comforted by the Holy Spirit who strengthened me and helped me to keep my faith despite our loss.” 


Alison Williams moved to the North East with Husband Vaughn and their three children to train at Cranmer Hall following a background in Missional Arts Participation, University Chaplaincy and Student Welfare. 

Alison said: “Having studied as an Early Music Specialist at the Royal College of Music London through my A-levels, and come to know that music was going to form part of my future rather than fulfil it, I worked as a Hotel and Restaurant Manager before living in South Africa for a year before being married. Upon returning to the UK, I undertook my first degree in Theology and Religious Studies with Drama and Theatre Studies, throughout which I was able to work in an incredibly interdisciplinary manner. This physical and artistic expression and experimentation in the interface with faith and theology led me into the missional arts and Theology in the marketplace scene. I have been hugely blest throughout my training to be able to continue to work in an interdisciplinary way, both practically in placements and theoretically through study.”

Speaking of her greatest challenges, Alison said: “Perhaps most notably, the burden and privilege of caring for family members through times of critical illness and long term ill-health. 

“Grief has been a persistent and recurring companion through the death of family members and friends and recurrent miscarriages. Perhaps, most challenging though is the consistent day to day challenge of faith in the rich tapestry of life’s experience. Walking with people whose worlds are crumbling with brokenness alongside the joy and vibrancy of life’s journey is a blessing, a privilege and deeply challenging.

“The continuous abundant Grace of God, evident in the lives of people, in creation, and in community. Perhaps most exciting though, is the endless stream of creative opportunity as new ideas open before your eyes and new avenues begin to emerge where God is working is what gets me out of bed in the morning.”

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