CHURCH members and well-wishers from across the North-East turned out to welcome a new team rector following a recruitment effort which lasted more more than two years.

The Right Reverend Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, led the service at St Edmund’s Church, in Sedgefield, for the induction of the Reverend Geoffrey Short.

Last week’s celebration also included the licensing of the Parish of the Upper Skerne’s new team vicar, Reverend Elizabeth Bland.

Bishop Butler described the occasion as “a very exciting moment in the life of the parish”, which includes churches in Sedgefield, Bishop Middleham, Fishburn and the Trimdons.

Their arrival is welcome news for parishioners as both posts have been vacant.

Rev Short comes to the parish from the Diocese of Newcastle where he was team vicar of Christ the King in the North Tyneside village of Wideopen.

He replaces the Reverend Michael Gobbett who left Sedgefield more than two years ago to become rector of Whitby with Ruswarp in the Diocese of York.

And Rev Bland, formerly team vicar in the Great Aycliffe Team ministry, has been appointed to the half-time post.

She takes over from the Reverend Michael Thompson who retired in August.

Parish warden Brian Mutch said: “The ministry team has done a sterling job in very challenging circumstances during the past two years.

“We are now looking forward to working with Geoff and Elizabeth to grow our churches and to make them more attractive to the wider community, particularly our young people.”

Until now two readers have taken services and funerals while three retired priests have taken weddings and baptisms across the parish’s churches

The parish has also had three members who have regularly led Sunday worship.

The new rector has already moved into Sedgefield Rectory on Durham Road while the team vicar will make her home at the Vicarage, at Trimdon Grange.

Both Rev Short and Rev Bland were formally welcomed by representatives of other ecumenical partners, civic dignitaries and the local community.

The induction service saw the rector having his hand placed on the entrance door to St Edmund’s by the Archdeacon of Auckland, the Venerable Rick Simpson, and presented with a set of keys to the church before he caused the church bell to be rung to signify his acceptance of responsibility for the pastoral care for parishioners.

During the service, the team rector and team vicar were each presented with a unique stained glass cross for their new homes made by Bishop Butler’s wife to mark the double celebration.