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Andrew John Nicholson, Priest

From the Barwicker No.97
March 2010

Andrew John Nicholson

Andy Nicholson is the new Priest-in-charge of the two parishes of Barwick-in-Elmet with Scholes and Thorner with Scarcroft. He was Licensed by James, the Bishop of Knaresborough on 2nd June 2009 in St. Philip’s Church, Scholes, in front of a packed congregation of clergy and laity who thoroughly enjoyed this splendid summer occasion. Andy lives in the Rectory at Thorner and his wife Debbie and young sons Ben and Jacob are now well established and happy in their new home. He has oversight of the two parishes and has undertaken a very demanding and taxing job.

He was born in Sheffield in 1969 and his family have Yorkshire roots. His grandfather was a Freeman of the City of York and Andy has always felt a tremendous sense of family unity and purpose. In 1972 he moved to Cheltenham and attended Cheltenham Grammar School. Andy was drawn towards Christianity and as a 17 year old student he felt the need to work full-time in a Christian role. He went to Forest Hill in London and spent a year as a Voluntary Evangelist with the London City Mission.

In 1988 he began a four year degree course in Theology and English at the College of Ripon and York St John; he went to Ripon to be close to his grandparents. Andy’s deep family commitment considerably influenced his career path and he considers that his father may have trained for ordination. His parents are buried in Bilbao and that is one reason he took a year out in 1990 to teach English as a foreign language in Spain, returning to College to complete his course in 1993. Andy’s adventurous spirit took him to China from 1994 to 1996 where he worked for the Amity Organisation, teaching English to students preparing to teach in secondary schools.

He enjoyed China, particularly his contact with the culture of village people and he learned to speak Mandarin. There are fifty two authorised minorities in the country, additionally there are many cultural sub-sections and he became adept at communicating with different minorities. He appreciated religious attitudes experienced both in Spain and China, absorbing elements of their worship into his charismatic evangelicalism. Buddhist peace and calm, particularly appealed to him.

Andy returned to England in 1996 and spent two years completing a Master’s degree in Theology. He has a strong interest in film and visual art and for his dissertation he wrote about Chinese Christian Art. He is interested in the interplay between Christianity and Culture and how Christianity can be made more relevant through artistic and film images. In 1998 he returned to China, coming home two years later to begin the process of discerning for ordination. Andy’s stay in China re-affirmed his evangelical, charismatic interests in Christianity.

In 2001 he took a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) to become a teacher and had teaching practice in Thirsk and Pateley Bridge. He then taught religious education in a Bradford secondary school for a year, before studying for two years at St John’s Theological College in Nottingham. Andy served as a curate for four years from 2005 in the East Richmond Team Ministry where he and three other clergy were responsible for fifteen churches. Thus Andy Nicholson is very well qualified and has a wide variety of excellent experience which will be invaluable to him as he works in our two parishes, each with differing emphases and traditions reflecting the interests and needs of the parishioners. There are evangelical, charismatic, traditional, Anglo-Catholic and strong choral and musical traditions at work within Scholes, Barwick and Thorner; at Scarcroft a service is held in the Village Hall once a quarter supported by members from local congregations.

Andy believes in the importance of effective consultation and communication with parishioners and his most difficult decision so far has been to plan to alter church service times in order to allow him to be present in each church every Sunday. Scholes will be most affected as it moves from a morning to an evening service time after Easter 2010. Parish changes are set against a backdrop of unique circumstances where the traditional historical model of each parish having its own stipendiary priest, has been broken forever. There is no going back. Falling church attendances nationally, the credit crunch, increased life expectancy, a multi-million pound clergy pensions shortfall, a shortage of ordinands, the rising costs of church maintenance and increased financial pressure on regular church attenders to contribute more, all exacerbate the problem.

The Church of England estimates that there will be an 8.3% reduction in paid clergy in the next four years, representing a 22.5% decrease since 2000. If this trend continues it is thought that in fifty years there will be no full-time clergy left in 13,000 English parishes. It appears that the future lies with Team Ministries covering increasing numbers of churches, the use of volunteer part-time staff and the closure or amalgamation of churches that have lost their congregations. We are witnessing changes to some churches which have been operating successfully for centuries, some going back to pre Norman times. As the poster in Aberford reads about the village church, ‘Use it or lose it.’

Andy is in the invidious position of introducing controversial changes to service times, which some people resent, but he and members of the PCC are the only ones with an informed overview of the true position. If some of the dire predictions about falling numbers of clergy prove correct, then in the future this could well be seen as a late halcyon period in church history.

Andy is an optimist and thinks that we need to celebrate our gifts and look to the future to chart a course successfully through the maelstrom of modern life. We all wish him God speed!


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