Long-serving Sheffield vicar retires after almost 30 years

Phil Townsend retired on the weekend from St Timothy's Church of England, Crookes
Phil Townsend retired on the weekend from St Timothy's Church of England, Crookes
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A retiring vicar who presided over a growth in his congregation during nearly 30 years there has retired to get some quality family time back.

Phil Townsend's last service at St Timothy Church of England in Crookes was on Sunday.

His wife Ranee has retired from her job as the clinical director at the Rotherham Community Dental Service for the same reason. The pair looks forward to plenty more years together.

"I'm 66, and I don't see my wife very much. We wanted to spend more time together before we die," he said.

More than 250 people wished Phil well on Sunday at a garden party to celebrate his retirement.

Phil said his congregation had bucked the trend of dwindling church numbers in recent years. His flock had grown.

In the past decade, he has seen a growth from about 90 in church to 150 on a Sunday.

He put that down to the state of the world today, with people worrying about their future.

"I find it easier to be a minister in the 21st century than in the 20th century," Phil said.

"People feel an emptiness, they are looking for an answer.

"I think that people are discovering that materialism sucks, basically."

Phil studied at the University of Sheffield, and spent three years at Kendray in Barnsley before taking up a post at St Tim's in 1988.

The couple have three children: Alex, who's 29, Josh, 26, and David, 24.

Alex is a youth and children's minister at the church, and Phil hoped he would continue on that path.

"He's got the gift to do that," Phil said.

Associate vicar John Marsh will take over from Phil until a permanent replacement can be found.

Phil will give his replacement time to settle in before re-joining the congregation.

"So the new person doesn't have the old person there cramping his style," Phil said.

Phil said his retirement would also serve God and the church, after spending some time having a sabbatical.

"I'll let the dust settle, and see what God's got planned for me," he said.

"I've got a lot of life left in me."

The Walkley couple also plan to travel. They have family in Sri Lanka and Singapore.