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Yarmouth Rector's farewell

PUBLISHED: 18:02 23 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:45 03 July 2010

Canon Michael Woods at his farewell service

Canon Michael Woods at his farewell service

MORE than 500 people attended the final service of St Nicholas' Church rector as he prepares for retirement on the island of Borneo.

After a series of goodbyes involving the 22 different voluntary institutions in the town that Canon Michael Woods has served, the final curtain came on Sunday at a special service attended by the Bishop of Thetford, the Rt Rev David Atkinson.

MORE than 500 people attended the final service of St Nicholas' Church rector as he prepares for retirement on the island of Borneo.

After a series of goodbyes involving the 22 different voluntary institutions in the town that Canon Michael Woods has served, the final curtain came on Sunday at a special service attended by the Bishop of Thetford, the Rt Rev David Atkinson.

The event marked the end of a 47-year link with St Nicholas', the largest parish church in England.

A clergyman renowned for his strong, individual character and unconventional wit, Canon Woods will return to the island he first visited as a teenager as part of voluntary service with the church.

Canon Woods will be staying in temporary accommodation while he oversees the design and construction of his new home about seven miles outside Kuching.

Already a fluent Iban speaker, he is looking forward to continuing his work as an unpaid priest supporting local clergy at the cathedral in Kuching.

During his final sermon, Canon Woods spoke of how the church was important to so many people and while some didn't attend church, people shared a close vision to that of churchgoers.

“People who share the same priorities come from a wide range of age, social background, ability, wealth and work. Those priorities involve integrity, justice, being heedful of the needs of others, wanting to make a difference for the better in this world, promise keeping. The main way of achieving these things is through self-sacrifice and that the highest priority is love.”

A varied career following his ordination at North Walsham Parish Church in 1967 included a five-year stint in Borneo and seven years in Leicester as well as serving parishes in south Norfolk and north Suffolk.

As rector of St Nicholas' Church for the last 17 years, Canon Woods has been instrumental in restoring the church - not only the building but the church itself which has become an asset to the town - staging several poignant events including the homecoming of Royal Anglian soldiers.

During his final service Canon Woods recalled his ordination where he was told the only question he could not ask was “Am I good enough?”

“He said in his last talk to us 'don't forget, the reason you are being ordained is that God cannot trust you to be laymen. I enquired whether he thought therefore that the reasons God makes Bishops is because he cannot even trust them to be priests. The Mitre of the Lord Bishop of Norwich tipped forward and he looked at me over his glasses and said nothing. I knew it was the beginning of the end. The end that comes today.”

At a farewell visit to St Paul's Women's Fellowship Beryl Finch presented Canon Woods with a tapestry of the last supper which she had made. This in turn will be presented by Canon Woods to church in Sarawak, Borneo, where he is retiring.

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