Some 250 people gathered in Wakefield Cathedral to say goodbye to Canon John and Canon June Lawson whose life long love of learning and teaching has helped forge the enduring relationship between the Community at Mirfield and the church in this area.
John will resign his post as residentiary canon at Wakefield Cathedral while still continuing as principal of the Diocesan School of ministry hub at Mirfield, and June is to take up parish ministry as Vicar of the parishes of All Saints, Pontefract and St Giles with St Mary’s.
The sub dean of Wakefield Cathedral, Canon Tony Macpherson said: “It was fitting to say our goodbyes on Candlemas Sunday which tells us to Let now your servant depart in peace.
“We came together to reflect on the service John and June have given to us here at the Cathedral and beyond, in their work for the diocese and the Community, and prayed for their future, ” he said.
John first came to the diocese from Wellington, Shropshire in 1992. He had studied for ordination at St John’s Theological College, Nottingham in 1987. At that time the College allowed spouses to study with the Ordinands for one full year so June packed in her job teaching history at Homelands school in Derby, raised the fees she needed, and found herself studying theology at Post Graduate level. And she loved it.
“We were really happy there – when you think about it now – the recklessness and hope of being young and just making these decisions."
John was appointed to the Dewsbury team as vicar of St John’s, Dewsbury Moor. It was a transformational time that saw All Saints Parish church become Dewsbury Minster and the other churches within the team made fit for purpose.
Said June, pictured above with John and Dean of Wakefield Cathedral, Simon Cowling: “Our rector John Hawley always said: How do your buildings help or hinder your mission, and together we just thrashed through these buildings; St Matthew’s became a place for the homeless, St John’s got a new roof, Trinity Batley Carr became a community centre with worship space, and St Mark’s was sold on.
“It was such an inspiring time and transformative time,” she added.
John and June had two young children at this time. June was a licensed reader and teaching at Dewsbury College and John decided he wanted to resume some studying at St John’s doing a Masters degree inspired by his love of Christian learning. This set him along the track to become an educator within the church. He was appointed to serve at St Philip’s, Birchencliffe, Huddersfield, made Assistant Diocesan Director of Ordinands in the historic Wakefield diocese, and began working on his PhD – The role of the spirit in adult Christian learning.
“I knew I would be asking the church to test my vocation at some time,’ said June.
“Ever since my year at St John’s, I’d had this dream that I hadn’t finished studying at St John’s College and it was during this time that I realised I needed to resolve this calling.
“Back in the early 1990’s the church did not have the imagination that a young clergy wife with children could have a future in ordained ministry in the church – ten years later it had come a long way,’ she added.
June was ordained aged 40 in 2002 and served a curacy at Holy Trinity, Huddersfield. Three years later John was offered the role of Director of Training and Residentiary Canon in Wakefield and fortuitously for June, she saw an advert in the national press for Director of Adult Christian Learning Project - a partnership project between the historic Wakefield Diocese and the Community at Mirfield. A perfect role for her – especially as the project meant a key relationship with the Wakefield Diocese.
June has had something of a portfolio ministry since her ordination in 2002. A former career as a secondary school teacher meant education and teaching has never been far away from the many roles she’s served within the diocese: Dean of Women’s Ministry, Area Dean, as well as her longstanding work as Director of the Mirfield Centre and involvement with the then Wakefield Diocese School of Ministry. She has also served for many years as a foundation governor at Cathedral Academy, Wakefield . She starts her new role on February 27.