A HUSBAND and wife team have been appointed as new ministers at a Darlington church following a weekend of tough questions and sermon.

Stephen and Hillary Collinson will take over the reins at Northgate United Reformed Church (URC), in Darlington.

The church was looking for new ministers, along with four sister churches in the area.

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Darlington URC belongs to a joint pastorate of five United Reformed Churches in lower Teesdale and Swaledale, the four other churches being in Northallerton, Barnard Castle, Low Row and Keld.

The Collinsons, who previously worked in Lancashire, accepted the call after members voted overwhelmingly in support of their appointment.

Northgate URC’s previous regular minister, the Reverend Tjarda (correct) Murray, left her post last Easter.

Since then, ordained and lay preachers have covered all of the churches in the joint pastorate.

Barnard Castle URC still has a minister, Rev Julie Martin, but she is due to retire this year.

Rev Stephen Collinson, 58, was previously the minister of Kirkham URC, in Lancashire.

He is the North Western Synod Training and Development Officer and works with children in the Boys Brigade, Pilots and Scouts.

Revr Hilary Collinson, 57, is the Free Church Chaplain at HM Prison Kirkham and has worked at Lytham and Elswick URCs.

They have three sons, one who will move to sixthform college in Darlington in September.

Maranny Jones, a lay preacher at the United Reformed Church, said: “The weekend went exceptionally well.

“It was good meeting Hilary and Stephen informally and they answered some difficult questions with thought and sincerity.

“It was inspirational to worship together on Sunday and I feel we can look to the future with confidence.

“We have to learn to work as a pastorate and with Hilary and Stephen at the helm they will steer us ahead with their wisdom and experience.”