A GROUP of enthusiastic parishioners has launched its own marketing campaign extolling the virtues of their parish in a bid to recruit a new priest.

The parishes which make up the benefice of West Mersea with East Mersea, Peldon and Great and Little Wigborough have been without a rector for three years.

Services have carried on but the parishioners really want their own priest.

Fed up of waiting, they have now produced a website in a bid to recruit a clerical leader.

It comes complete with videos of church wardens promoting the benefits of their island and rural area.

John Walker, a retired marketing director and church warden at Peldon, is the driving force behind the campaign.

He said: “We are lively parishes with plenty going on and we didn’t want to face another year without a leader, so we took matters into our own hands.

“We have had brilliant support from the Bishop of Colchester, the Rt Rev Roger Morris, our Archdeacon, the Venerable Ruth Patten and retired priests, but we have been without a full-time leader since October 2018.

“We decided to advertise this great job and promote our idyllic area.

“I called in favours to get the videos made, drone footage filmed, copy written, photography shot, the webpage designed and to push the vacancy on social media.

“The church wardens and members of the parochial church council wrote their own video scripts, so they reflect the wonderful variety of communities across the benefice.

“We must have done well, because Bishop Roger said if he wasn’t in his current job, he would love to do it.”

Bishop Roger added: “The Benefice of Mersea with Peldon and The Wigboroughs is one of the jewels in the crown of our episcopal area. Great people, great location and a real job of mission to do.

“The population of Mersea Island has grown by over 20 per cent in recent years and the church is flourishing.

“At West Mersea, a talented group of people have created a lively, modern praise service, tapping into the musical skills there. There are all kinds of other gifts as well, including the people who put all this together.”

Archdeacon Ruth Patten said: “Mersea Island has a creative buzz about it with a lively community spirit: a great place to work and to make your home.”

At West Mersea’s St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Curate The Reverend Terry Walker has been running services with several active retired clergy who live on the island. He is a passionate advocate for the Benefice and, especially, for Mersea Island. “When I moved here in 1997 after leaving the army, the Church drew me in. I was inspired by the unity and love here and found my vocation,” he said. “It is such a friendly, welcoming and supportive place.”

John Walker said: “Our rural and island parishes are forward-thinking and don’t believe in standing still. Recent initiatives include a community space at Great Wigborough, exciting plans for an interactive history hub at Peldon and a Porch Pantry at West Mersea offering a “mini foodbank” to those in need.

Alan Brook, one of two wardens at West Mersea said: “There is a thriving and lively community here on Mersea Island and the church, in the heart of the village, plays an important role.

“During lockdown we’ve held regular services via Zoom and these have been very popular, but we can’t wait to get back to normal with a priest-in-charge.”

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Stacey Belbin, who runs Lady Grace Boat Trips from the island, is helping the campaign as she is a huge fan of Mersea.

“For me, Mersea is the centre of the universe, there’s nowhere I’d rather be,” she said.

“It’s full of character and characters, it’s an area full of adventure and discovery, with the most spectacular sunsets and picturesque views across the River Blackwater.

“And it might only be in England, but you could be anywhere in the world when you come to Mersea, it’s like going back in time in history, very quaint and lovely in perfect proportion,” she said.

The Diocese of Chelmsford paid for a recruitment advertisement which is supporting the parishioners’ campaign.

The parishioners’ website is mersea-rector.org.uk.

Details of the vacancy can also be found at www.chelmsford.anglican.org.