The recently appointed vicar for the Bridge Group of parishes within the Dorchester Team, Mark Howarth, has decided not to take up the post.
Revd Canon Howarth cited “personal reasons” for his decision. He was due to have been licensed at a ceremony in Dorchester Abbey in March by the Bishop of Dorchester the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, but the service had to be postponed because of the Coronavirus emergency.
Mr Howarth moved into the vicarage in Long Wittenham two weeks before his licensing but has since moved out. The house is expected to be re-let while the church seeks a replacement vicar. Mr Howarth decided against taking up his post on the grounds that many of his family and friends were in Suffolk and he felt cut-off in Oxfordshire.
Revd David Haylett said: “The church is now back to square one. We are all disappointed with developments but respect Revd Canon Hayworth’s decision. The post won’t be advertised until the current lock down eases and people can be interviewed.”
Mr Haylett said that once churches re-open and services resume, plans are in place for other members of the Dorchester clergy to take services.
In the meantime parishioners can join a service via Zoom from within the Dorchester Team most Sundays at 10.30am. So far the services have attracted a virtual congregation of between sixty and seventy. Single people and families have been taking part.
Mr Haylett added: “We are looking forward to being able to open churches as soon as possible, although almost certainly with restrictions to begin with.”
“We have a lovely new replacement carpet in St Mary’s thanks to the wedding flower arrangers, June Woodage and Angela Humphris, and a grant from the Mercy Ward Church Trust.”