A GROUNDBREAKING partnership between the Church of England and the Methodist Church will be inaugurated in the region this Saturday.

The agreement, between the Ripon and Leeds Anglican Diocese, which covers a large chunk of North Yorkshire, and the Leeds Methodist District, will mean greater sharing of clergy and joint services, with both churches working together to support their ministry and mission.

Under the Covenant Area Partnership – the first of its kind in Great Britain – there will be greater consultation and co-operation between 85 Anglican parishes and their 65 neighbouring Methodist churches.

The agreement is being signed at a celebration at Trinity Methodist Church, in Harrogate, on Saturday at 1pm. The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Right Reverend John Packer, said the partnership was an important opportunity for both.

He said: “This marks an important step for the diocese and the Leeds Methodist District.

It will encourage us to strive for closer connection with other churches, both together as well as separately.

“We hope that through our own working more closely together, we will also be able to encourage unity between other churches.”

The Reverend Julian Pursehouse, acting chairman of the Leeds Methodist District, said: “The Partnership is a fantastic opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to one another and to live out our calling to serve our communities in a more dynamic and coherent way. It will be a privilege to share in celebrating the gifts and heritage of both churches, while looking to a more fruitful and exciting future together.”

Methodist ministers will be encouraged to apply for permission to minister in Church of England parishes and Anglican clergy will be encouraged to apply for Associate Presbyter status with the Methodist Church.

This might mean, for example, that an Anglican priest would be able to preside at Methodist services of Holy Communion and baptism, and at funeral services.

The two churches will also seek to involve one another in appointing new ministers, clergy and staff throughout the covenant area.

In 2003, a national covenant between the Methodist Church in Britain and the Church of England was signed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Secretary General of the General Synod, the President, Vice-President and Secretary of the Methodist Conference in the presence of the Queen.