A POPULAR and well-know vicar is retiring from his parish this week.

Father Antony Pritchett, vicar of Pickering, will hold his last service on Sunday, June 30 at 10am.

Born and brought up in the Peak District, Fr Antony studied theology and ministerial training at Westcott House, Cambridge, before taking up his first post as a curate in a parish south of Leicester.

He later moved to Barnsley and in 2008 was appointed Vicar of Pickering and Marishes, with Lockton and Levisham.

Fr Antony said: “I love liturgy and at Pickering I introduced the increasingly popular A Light for Christmas service, where parishioners are invited to remember the names of loved ones in a book and lights on the splendid tree in church. In my time Baby Jesus has also travelled round businesses and shops and schools as a lead-up to Christmas.”

Fr Antony added: “I enjoy having a sense of vision for buildings, and at Pickering a great deal of time has been taken in raising money to help provide better heating and lighting – which will be blessed as part of my final service– created by one of the top lighting designers, is state of the art, and really does help light more sensitively the exciting medieval wall-paintings for which Pickering is rightly famed.”

Fr Antony said he had always has a sense of God calling him.

“I am told by friends of my parents that even in the pushchair I wanted to go into the Church,” he added.

“I like people, and working with people, and an important part of my ministry when Chaplain at Barnsley Hospice was to call in each room every day and say hello

“ I would sometimes be met with someone saying, on spying my clerical collar, ‘I’m not religious’, to which I’d reply, ‘neither am I; I’ve just come to see how you are,’ and so often from that would flow deep conversation about their understanding of God.

Fr Antony said: “ It’s good when I chat with people in Pickering’s Market Place and shops: I’m going to really miss the terrific folk here and their friendliness, as well as these wonderful churches. It’s been such a huge privilege to have been vicar here.