A VICAR who spent 15 years serving the Wyre Forest West group of parishes is retiring from his role.

Rev Stephen Owens was appointed as Priest in Charge of the benefice in 1999, later becoming Vicar, but now he has reached retirement age. He said he feels ready to start a new chapter in his life as he moves to Hartlebury.

“I’m very sad to be leaving after 15 good years in Wyre Forest West,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to retirement and having a bit of a sabbatical.”

Mr Owens was vicar of six churches in the benefice, which includes Rock, Far Forest, Mamble, Heightington, Clows Top and Bayton.

“It’s not been easy being a vicar of six churches but it’s been good experience, as each one has their own community and character.

“I can’t be in every church every Sunday, so I’ve needed the help of the congregation to lead their own services when I’m not there.

“It can only work by everybody working together.”

Mr Owens was born and brought up in Crawley, Sussex, before attending the Queen’s College, Birmingham, to study for ordination.

He was ordained as a deacon in 1975 at Worcester and became a priest a year later.

He carried out his last service on Sunday, June 29, at Rock Church and members of the congregation were sad to see him leave.

Peter Stanley, a member of the church, said: “Stephen is held in such high regard. He worked undeniably hard over the 15 years he has been here and it will be very sad to see him go.

“The congregation has a lot of affection for him, not just as a vicar, but as an individual.

“We wish him well for the future in everything he does.”

Music has played a big part in Mr Owens’ life and it was through music that he met his wife Lynne.

During their time together the couple have sung with the New English Orchestra and Singers based in Birmingham, local choral societies and the Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir, having been members since 1998.

Mr Owens said: “With both me and Lynne being members of the Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir we will continue to sing with them.”

Members of the benefice and other friends of Mr Owens attended a retirement presentation held for him after his final service.