Parishioners to meet top clergy over vicar
Reporter: Ken Bennett
Date online: 17 June 2014
A POPULAR clergyman has shared a bitter-sweet birthday with loyal parishioners at Saddleworth’s smallest church.
The Rev Howard Sutcliffe’s 70th birthday marked the end of his official duties as a minister and a new beginning as a member of the church congregation.
But at a parish meeting with the Bishop of Manchester tomorrow, church members from three Saddleworth parishes will ask for an explanation why - despite not having a replacement - the Rev Sutcliffe was compelled to retire.
IMore than 80 parishioners signed an appeal urging church leaders to allow the father of five to remain as part-time vicar at Saddleworth Parish Church after his birthday. The church hierarchy rejected the plea.
Now the Rev Sutcliffe, who receives no payment for his role, must leave the vicarage in which has lived with wife Truda since 2009.
He ministered to congregations at Lee Street Parish Centre, in Uppermill, and Kiln Green Church, Diggle, which hosted a family service linked to a surprise birthday celebration. The tiny church was packed with families, locals and visiting members of the parish church congregation showing support for the clergyman.
One senior member, who did not want to be named, said: “We were all shocked and concerned as he has been so good for the three churches. He and Truda were devastated. He had tears in his eyes.”
Their letter to church authorities said they were “gravely concerned” over the treatment of the retiring priest.
The Rev Sutcliffe raised a round of applause when he declared: “I am overwhelmed but I’m proud to be part of the Diggle community,”
The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, and Cherry Vann, Archdeacon of Rochdale, will host the parish meeting, from 7-8.30 pm. at St Chad’s Parish Church, Uppermill.
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