Reading welcomes new area dean

The Revd Stephen Pullin with The Bishop of Reading and Archdeacon of Berkshire Phil Creighton

Heavenly voices filled the rafters of Reading Minster of St Mary The Virgin as church leaders from across the town welcomed its new Area Dean at a very special service.

The Revd Stephen Pullin was installed as the new priest-in-charge of Reading Minster of St Mary The Virgin at a special service attended by more than 150 people on Thursday, September 18.

Led by the Bishop of Reading, the Rt Revd Andrew Proud, the service saw Stephen installed first as priest of the town centre church, before being licensed as the new area dean for the Reading area.

He takes over from the previous incumbent, Canon Brian Shenton, who retired in 2013.

Visitors from Stephen’s former churches, St John The Baptist in Frenchay and Holy Trinity in Stapleton, near Bristol, attended the service along with representatives from Reading-area Anglican churches and Churches Together in Reading.

The joyful service was traditional in nature and saw members of the church present Stephen with symbols of his ministry including a Bible, water for baptism, oil of anointing and a Book of Common Prayer.

Sung worship from the Reading Minster Choir included a setting of Psalm 126 and Wesley’s anthem Thou Wilt Keep Him In Pefect Peace.

The Bishop of Reading used his iPad to give a sermon, his face beaming joy as it was lit up by the screen of the gadget.

In his vows, Stephen promised to “care for the community that gathers here” and in doing so to “make this a place where all people are equipped to live their lives to the full, and Christians are encouraged to live out their faith”.

The Archdeacon of Berkshire, the Venerable Olivia Graham, installed Stephen as area dean. In the service she encouraged him to “pray for your people, lead them in worship and service and encourage them in their witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

Immediately afterwards, Stephen processed to the back of the Minster church to ring the church’s bell, a symbolic act to mark the launch of his ministry in the town.

The Bishop of Reading then presented Stephen to the congregation who welcomed him with a warm round of applause.

Bishop Andrew said in his part in the licensing of Stephen: “From early times, bishops have chosen wise and respected priests to share with them in the pastoral care of the clergy and the general oversight of the parishes. In consultation with the clergy and lay leaders of the Reading Deanery, I have chosen Stephen Pullin to undertake this ministry as your area dean.”

Stephen’s first act as minister and area dean was to share the peace – in which people walk around the building, shaking hands with each other, and lead prayers.

It was also a musical event. A peal from Reading Minster’s bell ringers announced the service to passers-by, while Andrew Stafford directed the church choir inside. Christopher Cromar was the organist and he performed several piecees before and after the service including Dubios’ Toccata and Langlais’ Mode De Sol.

Afterwards, refreshments were served and a special cake was cut.