New chapter for St Mary's as Hitchin parish church welcomes vicar
PUBLISHED: 17:43 11 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:48 12 November 2019
A new era for Hitchin's famous parish church began last Wednesday with the induction of vicar Reverend Christopher Bunce.
Revd Bunce joins St Mary's Church from St Andrew and St George in Stevenage, and has also been appointed team rector - a role affording him overall responsibility for six Anglican parish churches in the Hitchin area.
The 37-year-old former lawyer told the Comet that being appointed vicar of such a "well-loved church with great links to the community is a fantastic opportunity to serve the town."
"St Mary's is everyone's church - I can't wait to meet the people who fill the pews," said Chris.
"My first priority is getting to know local people and being introduced to exciting local initiatives.
"Visiting the foodbank distribution centre last week, I was blown away by the extraordinary community spirit."
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Chris - originally from Sidcup in Kent - said it was "special timing" to be inaugurated as the new vicar on Remembrance weekend - with the 37-year-old leading his first service outside the war memorial on Sunday.
Chris, who trained as a lawyer but left the Bar "to follow his heart", says that his favourite way to unwind is spending time with his beloved sprocker spaniel, Dougal - lovingly christened after the Father Ted character.
The self-described 'dog lover' warns parishioners that he and Dougal will likely be spotted on rambles around Hitchin and the surrounding countryside.
Chris will also be spending time - perhaps less willingly - learning how to bell ring, having been told by church members that studying the skill is a three-line whip for new vicars.
The community officially welcomed Revd Bunce on Wednesday last week with an installation ceremony attended by more than 400 people - including Governors of St Andrew's and Preston schools, chair of NHDC Councillor Jean Green, Hitchin BID Manager Tom Hardy and Chair of St Mary's Preservation Trust, Colin Eades.
St Mary's churchwarden Anne Senechal added her warm welcome, saying that the church are "delighted by Chris's arrival".
"We feel it will open an exciting new chapter in the life of our church - and the service on Wednesday was a truly inspiring occasion for all of us."
For more information on services and events, visit www.stmaryshitchin.co.uk.