Married Gorleston clerics bid farewell

THEY have shared marriage and ministry and now Gorleston vicars Tony and Helen Ward are planning their joint retirement.

After 15 years serving the spiritual needs of the community, the couple are giving up their clerical duties to begin a new phase in their lives.

Stepping down from the pulpit at St Andrew’s Church for the final time in February will be an emotional moment for the husband and wife team.

The couple, who have three grown-up children, are moving to Derbyshire to be nearer their family and are looking forward to taking holidays in their camper van.

The two have shared the role since associate vicar Mrs Ward’s ordination nearly seven years ago, but have always been very much a partnership.

She was already a familiar face to parishioners supporting her husband’s work following his appointment as vicar of St Andrew’s in 1995.

A former teacher, Mr Ward, 64, was ordained 28 years ago and previously served as rector at St Augustine’s Church in Norwich.

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During that time he was religious programme producer on Radio Broadland (now Heart FM) following the station’s launch in 1984.

He said: “Looking back we have always been a team and it has been a phenomenal privilege to serve the community at times of both celebration and grief.

“We had the opportunity of meeting people from all different backgrounds and circumstances and witness the changes that have taken place in their lives with God’s help.

“There were 100 people attending the Christmas Eve service, not all come to worship regularly, but the church is still there for them at crucial moments.

“This has been our life for the last 15 years and involved so much of what we do. There is so much to learn that I only now feel I am just about ready to be a vicar.

“I suppose there are similarities between broadcasting, teaching and preaching – it is all about communication and getting a message across.”

During his tenure Mr Ward set up Cliff Park Community Church more than 11 years ago with Gorleston Baptist Church. Plans to remove pews from St Andrew’s will also go ahead in a bid to make space in the church more flexible.

Although a devout Christian, Mrs Ward, 62, was initially against at her husband’s decision to enter the ministry, but then later inspired to follow in his footsteps.

Previously a nurse manager at the UEA, she has suffered with chronic fatigue syndrome and was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago.

Mrs Ward said: “Religion helped me to cope with those experiences.

“There were all these roles as a parent and at work that were taken away, but what was left was that God loved me.

“Becoming a vicar helped me grow as a person and I would not have believed I was capable of doing what I am today.

“Christianity is relevant to every part of life; we visit schools in the parish every term and run a memory club for dementia sufferers.

“We live in an increasingly informal society and people want worship to be more informal too.

“It is not about keeping a stiff upper lip, if you cannot be real in church then when can you be?”

She added “We have met some fabulous people and made great friends, but have five grandchildren under the age of six and really want to see more of our family.”

Wellwishers are invited to farewell party for Mr and Mrs Ward at the King’s Centre, Queen Anne’s Road on Saturday, February 12.

Anyone wishing to attend should call the church office on 01493 656078.