Wakefield Cathedral was packed for a farewell service to the Ven Peter Townley, Archdeacon of Pontefract who has now left to become an Assistant Minister in the Diocese of York.
In his sermon, Peter descrinbed how he had wished to be a priest from the age of eight.
“The great game changer for me was going to our local parish church when I was 7 and sat on the front pew, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and mystery.
“I was truly hooked and three weeks later, I was in the choir.”
He said that he has remained in awe of how God – Alpha and Omega – is bigger than we can imagine, and how that was also true of the church, citing his experiences of working in desperate times with devoted Christians in South Sudan, Sri Lanka and Oldham council estates.
Back in Wakefield, he said how: “the prayers of centuries are soaked into the foundations of this cathedral and we are surrounded and upheld by the saints, martyrs, angels and archangels.”
Peter said it was a constant duty of Christians “to call out what is unjust, what is untrue, or plain wrong” before he said a thankful farewell and how “another adventure begins.”
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Wakefield, paid a full tribute to his colleague of 15 years, likening him to an amalgam of well-known literary Archdeacons in his pastoral engagement with the Wakefield Episcopal Area.
“There can hardly be a clergy person here, who has not been for lunch with Peter,” said Bishop Tony, which received fond laugher.
He presented Peter with a silk-screen print of himself above the words “Say your prayers and love the people” which is a phrase commonly heard in his sermons.
Other appreciative words came from Elaine Swinhoe, President of the Leeds Diocese Mothers Union, who thanked him for his “practical and pastoral support, great humour and humility.”
Anne Smith, Vice Chair of the Leeds Diocesan Advisory Committee said how as its chairman, Peter had shown “wisdom, charm and efficiency” in his dealings with parishes and their buildings and approached all situations with a willingness to understand and to help find solutions.
The Rt Revd Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, concluded the thanks by saying how Peter had played a vital role in the creation of the Diocese of Leeds and that his pastoral care for people was unsurpassed.
“Thank you for that pastoral care and support and your wisdom and wise perspective on what’s going on,” Bishop Nick said.
Presenting an original painting of Wakefield Cathedral, he also announced that Peter has been made both an Honorary Canon Emeritus and and Archdeacon Emiritus in the Diocese of Leeds.
Peter will serve the Benefice of Sherburn-in-Elmet with Saxton, Aberford with Micklefield and Ledsham with Fairburn and thanked all those who have worked with him through the years.