'They have brought incredible love' - Minister who almost doubled church's numbers is leaving
PUBLISHED: 16:43 15 July 2019 | UPDATED: 21:26 15 July 2019
Copyright: Archant 2019
A popular rector whose tenure at a Norfolk church has seen the nationwide trend of shrinking congregations well and truly bucked is about to say farewell.
The Rev Canon Andrew Beane, 46, will soon leave his post at Aylsham Parish Church after seven years to take on the role of Archdeacon of Exeter.
Mr Beane said Sunday morning services drew around 60 people when he and his wife, Catherine, moved to the town, and now they attracted around 100 every week.
He said: "It's been a joy to minister in a town which has a great community.
"When we came here seven years ago the church was a little bit disconnected from its community. It was ready for new things. We've done everything we can to make it a welcoming, hospitable place."
The church has become a community hub, hosting regular events such as after-school games, crafts and activities, a toddler group, holiday activity days, a food bank and a Monday market.
They have also been holding 'interactive' services where parishioners move around and talk to each other, and even trailled a mobile phone app where people could give live feedback about the service they were sitting in.
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Mr Beane said of the app: "That's a sign of how we like to experiment. We've been trying to blend contemporary and traditional worship together."
He said they had also created a group of 18 rural churches, and this "collaborative model" meant some of the rural parishes could now have full-time clergy.
Mr Beane said he had presided over almost 1,000 funerals in his time at the church, as well as hundreds of christenings and weddings.
"You play a really important role at key moments of people's lives."
The Rev Jack Branford, the church's curate, said Mr Beane had led a "quiet revolution".
He said: "Andrew, Catherine and [their daughter] Lucy will be sorely missed by our churches, the wider community and by myself personally. They have brought incredible love, creativity, vision, energy and compassion to everything they do, making a difference to literally thousands of lives including my own."
The church will host a special celebration to thank Revd Beane and his family on Sunday, July 28.
Called Beanefest, the day will start with a quarter peel of the church bells, followed by Mr Beane's final service at 10.15am. There will then be a community picnic with a Pimm's tent, live music, a butchers' barbecue, a 'pop-up' pub and more.