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New role for Dean Frances

Sunday 2nd July 2017

New role for Dean Frances

One of Suffolk’s most senior Church of England clergy is leaving to study for a second doctorate and contribute to the life of the Church as a writer, author and theologian.

The Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury, will be moving to her new role from October, developing her work as a writer and academic, publishing a book on the Church of England and education, and researching a PhD on Edmund Burke at Durham University.

Dean Frances was among the very first women in the country to be appointed to one of the most senior roles within the Church of England, at a time when women did not then serve as bishops.

She has served within the Church for almost 30 years, working as a vicar in the north of England and in education as a priest teaching in a Manchester college before becoming Dean at the county’s cathedral in Bury St Edmunds.

The Rt Revd Martin Seeley, Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, said: “Dean Frances has brought a tireless energy to strengthen the connections between the Church and the world.  

“I have seen this in her engagement with public life, partnerships with civic leaders, championing environmental issues, and ensuring the cathedral celebrates and supports those in public and military service.  

“She has challenged us and encouraged us through her preaching and teaching, and it is right that she should now go on to develop her already significant ministry as an academic and author.”

Dean Frances, 57, who is married to retired consultant paediatrician Peter and has four children, said: “In September my husband Peter is going to West Yorkshire, to train for the Priesthood. This is an enormous step for us both in our lives, and has led us to re-evaluate our future ministry together.

“We have long felt a call to return to the north of England. For me, this is the opportunity to pursue my calling to study and write as a theologian. 

“I will leave St Edmundsbury Cathedral after seven years in beautiful Suffolk, having built close relationships across the county, diocese and within the congregation.

“I move on to a new stage in my ministry with tremendous gratitude for the privilege of working with so many wonderful people, and also real sadness leaving Suffolk after so many years.

“I know I leave the Cathedral in good heart, ready for its onward pilgrimage, growing in God as it serves the diocese and county as a beacon of faith, hope and love in Suffolk.”

Cathedral wardens' Liz Steele and Stewart Alderman said Dean Frances had achieved a tremendous amount since being appointed to the Cathedral seven years ago, as Suffolk’s first ever female Dean.

Dean Frances will take her last service at the cathedral on Sunday October 15 and Bishop Martin has appointed the Rt Revd Graeme Knowles, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese, to serve as Acting Dean until a permanent successor is appointed next year.