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Dean Frances Ward says she will miss the people of Suffolk ‘enormously’

PUBLISHED: 12:37 16 October 2017 | UPDATED: 12:37 16 October 2017

A smiling Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury, with the Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury, during her farewell service at St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM PHOTOGRAPHY

A smiling Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury, with the Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury, during her farewell service at St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM PHOTOGRAPHY

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One of Suffolk’s most senior clergy has said farewell to the county after seven years to pursue new paths in the church.

Warden Liz Steele presents the Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury, with a farewell gift. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM PHOTOGRAPHY Warden Liz Steele presents the Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury, with a farewell gift. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM PHOTOGRAPHY

Hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye to the Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury, as she led her final Choral Evensong at Bury St Edmunds Cathedral on Sunday

Dean Frances, who has served in the church for almost 30 years and was Suffolk’s first ever female Dean, 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 is moving on to study for a second doctorate and contribute to the life of the church as a writer, author and theologian.

Dean Frances, 57, who is married to retired consultant paediatrician Peter, former clinical director of the women and children division at West Suffolk Hospital, and has four children, said: ‘‘I am leaving the cathedral after seven rich and fulfilling years, when we’ve seen a great deal accomplished, strengthened by the Grace of God, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, as we seek to be a beacon of faith, hope and love in Suffolk.

The Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury, with husband Peter, centre, with from left, the Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury, Canon Precentor Philip Banks, Canon Matthew Vernon, Bishop John Waine and Bishop Tim Stevens. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM PHOTOGRAPHY The Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury, with husband Peter, centre, with from left, the Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury, Canon Precentor Philip Banks, Canon Matthew Vernon, Bishop John Waine and Bishop Tim Stevens. Picture: KEITH MINDHAM PHOTOGRAPHY

‘‘I shall be heading north to join my husband Peter as he trains for the priesthood and as I do so I shall miss the people of the cathedral, the town of Bury St Edmunds and the county of Suffolk enormously, and wish the cathedral the very best into the future.’’

Dean Frances will publish a book on the Church of England and education, and research a PhD on Edmund Burke at Durham University.

The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, paid tribute to her tireless energy in strengthening the connections between the church and society.

Bishop Martin said: “Frances has led the cathedral with passion and energy over these past seven years. I will miss her thoughtful support and encouragement as well as her ability to challenge us.

“There are many whose lives have been touched by her vision and her perceptive spiritual wisdom and I know she will be greatly missed. I wish her and Peter well as they faithfully embrace this next stage of God’s call to them.”

The Rt Rev Graeme Knowles, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese, will serve as Acting Dean until a permanent successor is appointed.

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