Church welcomes rise in new clergy

THE CHURCH of England yesterday reported an increase in the numbers of new clergy being ordained, with estimates showing this year's total set to be the highest since the 1980s.

The Church said that 396 new deacons will be ordained around the country this summer, or Petertide as the ordinations period at the end of June is known, up from 363 in 1998. Church officials believe the total for 1999 will be about 464.

Earlier this decade the Church had difficulty finding young replacements for the large numbers of retiring clergy, who had been ordained during the 1960s when the number of ordinations was much higher.

But the Church is hoping that this year's 9 per cent Petertide increase in ordinations, contributing to a rise of more than quarter since 1997, shows that it has solved the problem and found a new popularity. The ordinations will include 141 new female deacons.

The average age of those preparing for ordination has fallen, with the greatest increases in those joining the clergy aged from 20 to 39.

Church of England clergy serve one year as a deacon before being ordained a priest and becoming able to consecrate the bread and wine at Holy Communion, pronounce absolution and give a blessing in the name of Christ.

Some 362 deacons who have served their year will be "priested" this Petertide, an increase on last year's 335.