Churchgoers in Wigan have officially welcomed two rectors who will take charge of several parishes across the borough.
Ambitous plans by the Anglican Church, aiming to establish a substantially stronger movement by 2021 and revitalise worship in Wigan, has seen the area split up into seven ‘hubs’.
And the leaders of two of those collectives, Canon David Brookes and Rev Frances Shoesmith, were instituted in separate services this week, as part of the Transforming Wigan project.
Their journey to the north has come at a pivotal time for the Liverpool Diocese.
Beverley Mason, the Archdeacon of Craven and Ripon, has been named as the first female bishop, a move welcomed by the Right Rev Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool.
Canon David will take charge of the Chapelfields hub, as interim rector incorporating churches in Abram, Bickershaw, Bamfurlong, Hindley, Hindley Green and Platt Bridge.
He is relocating to the north-west having been an honorary canon of Durham Cathedral and diocesan lead mission support partner.
And the Rev Frances Shoesmith has been installed as team vicar and hub leader for All Saint’s Wigan, taking on the north-east hub.
She is arriving in the north-west having been team vicar of St Luke’s, in the north-east London district of Walthamstow.
And she will be based at Whelley Vicarage and has been kept busy, in recent weeks, renovating her new home.
David’s service took place at All Saint’s Hindley, following Frances’ adoption at Canon Sharples School earlier.
But the welcome afforded both priests was mirrored at each location, by the laying on of hands.
A Transforming Wigan spokesman said: “It was great to witness leaders from the hubs lay hands on Frances and David and pray.”
Earlier this year it was announced that Rev Will Gibbons would be the town centre hub leader and All Saint’s team rector, having been priest-in-charge at St Mark’s Newtown for some time.
Other hubs include one for the south of Wigan, covering from Winstanley to Ashton and a north-east team, from Ince up to Haigh.
Another central hub includes Beech Hill and Springfield, while the north-west sector has Marsh Green and Kitt Green, and the west hub is for Orrell, Pemberton and Highfield.
Church leaders have insisted that the moves are not designed to break up the traditional parishes, which have existed for centuries, but strengthen ties between worshippers in similar areas.
The wider seven-year £1.2m intiative is led by the Rev Tim Montgomery, based at Wigan Investment Centre, who took up the role in early 2015.