A RURAL parish has welcomed its first curate for about 30 years.
The Rev Stephanie Gardner has taken up the role of deacon in the 3bs Parish, which covers Upper Beeding, Bramber and Botolphs.
She was among 17 men and women ordained at Chichester Cathedral by the Bishop, the Right Rev Dr Martin Warner, on Sunday, June 28.
The Rev John Challis, vicar for the parish, said it was the first time for about 30 years they had had a Deacon.
“It is quite a big change for us, so as a parish it is very exciting,” he added.
“It is wonderful to have a colleague to pray with and share parish pastoral life and ministry.
“It is also a privilege to see someone who has just been ordained grow in the time they are with us. I am looking forward to see her change and grow in the ministry.”
Mrs Gardner, 51, lives in Lancing with her husband, Phil, and they have two daughters, aged 22 and 19, who are both at university.
She will spend a year training, having completed a degree in theology for Christian ministry at a college in London.
Mrs Gardner said her career was always in the civil service, working in revenue and customs until 2011. Since then, she had been studying part-time.
Going into the church was not something she had always planned, but she sensed a calling more than ten years ago.
“It is something you feel God is telling you to do and in the end, you have to do what your heart is telling you to do,” she explained.
“At the moment, I am experiencing as much of parish life as I can, getting to know people. It is a learning process.”
It is a non-stipendiary ministry, which means she will carry out her work unpaid, on a part-time basis.
Mr Challis said: “She needs to experience everything and see where she feels there is a role to fill.”
Dr Warner said he was delighted to see women and men across Sussex realising a vocation to ministry.
He added: “People are indeed coming forward for a variety of ministries and this is very encouraging indeed.”
After being ordained as deacons, training continues in a parish, where they serve a curacy for three to four years.