Photo Credit: Anglican Church in Wales
The new Assistant Curate for the Offa Mission Area, a group of churches along the English-Welsh border in North Wales, made history last week after being licenced by video-conferencing. Heather Shotton should have been licensed during a service at St Mary’s Church in Ruabon on Passion Sunday (29 March) but the service was one of thousands cancelled across the UK by restrictions designed to curb the spread of Covid-19.
She was licensed during a virtual service on the Zoom video conferencing platform. Heather Shotton was in one place, along with her husband; but was joined online by clergy from six other churches; and the Archdeacon of Wrexham, John Lomas, who carried out the licensing.
“Priests can only operate under licensed from a bishop”, he said. “There are clergy like Heather who had already been placed and were awaiting their license before the present crisis. This would normally take place within a service at their new appointment. So as not to create difficulties and gaps in mission the bishop asked if we could conduct the licensing virtually.
“We used the form of service that had been prepared for Heather’s welcome and licensing. I brought clergy together from Heather’s former church, St Giles in Wrexham and her new Mission Area which includes Ruabon, Chirk and Penycae and we did the service and the license by Zoom.
“Heather needed to sign the licence so it has been posted to her.”
Heather Shotton is a former nurse in the Royal Navy. Prioe to her new appointment she was an Assistant Curate in Wrexham Mission Area.
“The service had been planned for Sunday and I had been expecting to be sharing it with lots of parishioners, friends and colleagues”, she said. “We were disappointed when that couldn’t happen but fortunately we were able to use today’s technology to do the licensing virtually. It was quite surreal but lovely at the same time and although there were only a few of us present, I still got the feeling of everyone supporting me.
“There will be a service of welcome when the church reopens to which all will be invited.”
Following Heather Shotton’s licensing, two further priests were licenced virtually in the Church in Wales. The Bishop of Monmouth, Cherry Vann, licensed two new parish priests for the Monmouth area. Tim and Karen Dack, a married couple, recently arrived in Wales from New Zealand. On Thursday (2 April) Karen was licensed as priest in charge for the Monmouth Rural Group and Tim as priest in charge of the Monmouth Town Group.
When the church buildings re-open, they be inducted as Mission Area Leaders for their respective areas.
Bishop Chery Vann said: “Once we are allowed to gather in our church buildings again, they will both be licenced and inducted as incumbents and there will be parties and a proper welcome for both of them.”
Covid-19 restrictions have forced the Church in Wales to postpone many of the events planned to mark its centenary last Wednesday (1 April). The Church in Wales was part of the Church of England until its independence and disestablishment 100 years ago.