Peter says farewell to flock

ONE of the best-known clergymen in Ipswich is today preparing for a new challenge in northern England after saying a fond farewell to his congregation.

ONE of the best-known clergymen in Ipswich is today preparing for a new challenge in northern England after saying a fond farewell to his congregation.

Rev Canon Peter Townley has been vicar of St Mary le Tower, Ipswich's civic church, for nearly 11 years and is taking up a new role as Archdeacon of Pontefract in the Diocese of Wakefield.

Mr Townley has been one of the leading church figures during a time of rapid change in Ipswich - and admits he is sorry to have to say goodbye to so many friends.

He said: “I am looking forward to the new challenge in Yorkshire, but of course there is a feeling of sadness about moving away from an area where we have made so many friends and have been very happy.”

As vicar of the civic church, Mr Townley was well aware of his role in the wider community.

“That is a strength of the Church of England. It is a church for the whole community - and it's role in the community is very important,” he said.

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“There have been many services at the church that stand out in my mind during my time there.

“The memorial service for Sir Alf Ramsey saw people from across the world of football come to the town.

“Most of the 1966 team were there, and they came back to the vicarage for tea. I never thought that would happen to me!

“And on a different level the service to commemorate the 80th birthday of The Queen was very special - a very memorable occasion.

“But of all the services we have had during my time at The Tower, the one that really stands out was the memorial service for Lord Belstead.

“He was a remarkable man who epitomised everything that was good about Suffolk and the service reflected that.”

Mr Townley was ordained 28 years ago, but the first 17 years of his ministry were spent in the Manchester area.

But it was during his training in Cambridge that he first got to know Ipswich.

He said: “I was at theological college in Cambridge and I came over to Ipswich to buy my cassock and robes from Mary Collings.

“I still use them today - they are the best you could imagine.

“And then I was doing some training on ministry in prisons and spent a month at the young offenders' centre at Hollesley Bay.

“I had the Saturday afternoon off and came into Ipswich and went to the cinema. They had the film Porridge showing - I didn't find that very funny!”

In his new role Mr Townley will be supporting churches, clergy, and parishioners in West Yorkshire - a different role from that of a parish priest.

“It's the same, but different. But I am very much looking forward to supporting the clergy and parishes in my new role.”

Mr Townley will be moving north with his wife Moira and three sons - but will never forget his time in Ipswich.

“We have many happy memories here, and we've made some wonderful friends,” he said.