TRIBUTES have been paid to a popular ‘people person’ who served churches across the region.

Born in Ferryhill in 1953 as the son of a coal miner, the Rev Malcolm Tonge was licensed as a Church of England Lay Reader in 1983 and served at St Margaret’s Church in Brookfield, Middlesbrough.

Subsequently, he was accepted for ordination training on the North-East Ordination Course and became a deacon in 2003 and priest in 2004.

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Reverend Tonge continued to serve at St Margaret’s Church until he moved to support a newly licensed priest at Ingleby Barwick, near Stockton, in 2006.

Two years later he moved with his wife Alyson and daughters, Kate and Sarah, to Scruton, near Northallerton – now in the benefice of the Lower Swale.

However, he continued to support Ingleby Barwick until he was licensed at St Radegund Church in Scruton later that same year.

At the same time as being an accountant for the chemical industry until 2014, he continued his service to the church in the Lower Swale Benefice and to the wider church as treasurer and a trustee of the then Yorkshire Ministry Course.

Rev Tonge recently lost his battle with cancer at the age of 64.

Leading the many tributes, the Anglican Bishop of Leeds, Rt Rev Nick Baines said: “Malcolm’s death, though not unexpected, is a tragedy.

“He ministered faithfully until the end, and will be remembered with love and gratitude.

“We thank God for him and pray for Alyson and his family in their grief.”

The former Bishop of Ripon, the Rt Rev James Bell will lead the funeral service later this month and paid his own tribute to Rev Tonge, saying: “Malcolm’s faith shone brightly, not least as he faced his illness with such courage.

“His devotion to his family and his enjoyment of friends was always evident.

“I give thanks for the privilege of knowing him and praying with him and for all his service to the church, not least as treasurer of YMC/St. Hild’s College in recent years.

“Our prayers are with Alyson and the family.”

Friends have described Malcolm as a determined man and a very proud father and loving grandfather who loved to celebrate his family’s achievements.

Colleagues described him as ‘a people person’ who enjoyed telling stories and talking about his faith.

The funeral for Rev Tonge will take place on St Radegund Church Scruton, near Catterick, on Monday, September 25 at 2pm.