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Farewell to the 'people's priest' after 16 years
THE “people’s priest”, Canon Owain Bell, will be hanging up his dog collar as he retires after serving the Wyre Forest community for 16 years.
He has shared joy and grief with hundreds of residents while conducting weddings, baptisms and funerals and now the minister, of St Mary’s Church, will be giving his last service at the end of this month – 41 years after he was first ordained.
“I know in my heart that I’m going to miss so many things and so many activities,” said the 64- year-old. “It’s an emotional rollercoaster.”
Canon Bell was licensed in Kidderminster in 1997 and, as part of the Kidderminster Parish Church Team Ministry, has been team rector of five churches, including St Barnabas, Franche, St Oswald’s, Broadwaters, St Peter's, Upper Arley and Holy Trinity, Trimpley.
He will be dedicating the rest of this month to saying “farewell”
to the congregations.
“I have real affection for all five and I just wanted to say a personal ‘thank you’,” he told The Shuttle.
He cited his involvement with Kidderminster schools as governor and giving assemblies as being an important part of his life.
“The nicest thing anyone has ever said to me was a parishioner who said I’m the people’s priest, so I’ve really enjoyed serving the community,” said Mr Bell, who was also chairman of the Horsefair, Broadwaters and Greenhill Partnership and the first chairman of the Worcestershire Family Intervention Project.
Although he has dedicated himself to the ministry since he was ordained in September, 1972, it was a path he almost did not take.
“I wasn’t a church-goer as boy,”
he recalled. “When I was at Durham University studying history, I decided to go to the cathedral one Sunday and at some point during that service I decided there was something in this for me.
“I was confirmed and very soon after that it was suggested to me that maybe I might have a vocation to be a minister, which was a terrible shock. It took me a while to work out how I was going to tell my parents and friends and it went from there.”
He added: “I’ve loved being a parish priest. I’ve loved leading worship and conducting baptisms, weddings and funerals but my heart is very much in the church serving the wider community.
“It’s been deeply challenging but also immensely rewarding.”
His final service will be held at St Mary’s Church on Sunday, September 29 at 6.30pm.
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