Thinking Anglicans

Dean of Chelmsford

The Bishop of Chelmsford has announced that the next Dean of Chelmsford will be the Rev Canon Dr Jessica Martin.

Jessica currently serves as a Residentiary Canon at Ely Cathedral and during 2024 has served as one of two theological advisers to the bishops of the Church of England.

Speaking about her appointment Canon Jessica said:

“I’m filled with excitement at the prospect of coming to be part of the Cathedral community in Chelmsford.  I hope too to play a focussed and enthusiastic part in serving the city, county and wider diocese. These are rich and diverse overlapping communities and I am very eager to find how I may serve them. I look forward to becoming part of the steady foundation of prayer, praise and worship that the Cathedral represents and maintains, and to all that grows out from that in Christian service.  There are relationships to make and to deepen, and a compelling vision that waits for us to discover and bring to fruition together – for which I know excellent work has already begun.

“As I prepare to move to Chelmsford shortly after Christmas, along with my husband Francis Spufford and my younger daughter, I will be praying steadily for you all. I ask that you will pray for me too, that I may by the grace of God serve you well; and that, creatively and joyfully, we may make something beautiful of this new chapter in the life of Chelmsford Cathedral.”

The Right Reverend Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, the Bishop of Chelmsford said:

“I am delighted that God has called Jessica to be the next Dean of Chelmsford.  She brings extensive experience of Cathedral ministry as well as great wisdom and many skills. Her appointment is good news for the Cathedral and the wider diocese and I am very much looking forward to working with her when she joins us in January.

“I also want to take this opportunity to thank and pay tribute to the Very Rev Paul Kennington who, as interim Dean, has made an outstanding contribution to the life of the Cathedral and our diocese and has graciously agreed to stay on in post until nearer the time of Jessica’s arrival. Details of his leaving service, expected to take place in December, will be shared in due course.”

The interim Dean of Chelmsford, the Very Rev Paul Kennington said:

“I am so delighted that Jessica has been appointed to be the next Dean of Chelmsford. She brings with her not only a wealth of cathedral knowledge and understanding, but also a nationally valued theological acumen and a deep pastoral heart with a longing for sharing the Gospel. I wish her and Francis all the very best for their transition over the coming months into the life of this Cathedral.

“I am sorry not to be with you today for this wonderful occasion. I have a long-standing meeting with senior clergy from the Episcopal Church in the North of England. I have enjoyed my 16 months so far at Chelmsford Cathedral. It is an inspiring place with a dedicated and committed Christian Community which is privileged to play its role in the life of the diocese, city, County and East London.”

The announcement of Canon Jessica’s appointment was made at Chelmsford Cathedral this morning. Jessica will spend today meeting people from the Cathedral community, from churches across Chelmsford Diocese and local civic leaders. She will also be visiting the Chelmsford Cathedral School to meet with pupils and staff.

About Jessica Martin

Jessica Martin grew up in the Surrey commuter town of Woking. She studied literature at university, which she later taught at Trinity College in Cambridge. Following her ordination in 2004 she served as a priest alongside her life as a lecturer, until 2010 when she became the vicar of three country parishes in South Cambridgeshire. Her southernmost church was just two hundred yards away from the Essex border. Gradually taking on other responsibilities, Jessica served on the Bishop of Ely’s senior staff and contributed to the Church of England’s ongoing reflections on sexuality. Since 2016, she has been a Canon of Ely Cathedral, with special responsibility for learning. She has written two religious books (as well as some academic ones): Holiness and Desire, which is about sacred and profane loves and how they fit together and which was longlisted for the Michael Ramsey Prize, and The Eucharist in Four Dimensions, about the way that Holy Communion uses place and space and time. During 2024 she has been one of the two theological advisers to the bishops of the Church of England. She plays the oboe and the piano, and is married to the writer Francis Spufford. She has two daughters, Stella and Theodora.

The Rev Canon Dr Jessica Martin will begin her ministry as Dean of Chelmsford in January 2025.

The Rev Canon Dr Jessica Martin’s video message

Canon Jessica recorded a video message for the cathedral community and diocese ahead of this morning’s announcement that she will be the next Dean of Chelmsford.

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James Allport
James Allport
26 days ago

Good news! We need more deans who “pray steadily”. I read her “Eucharist in Four Dimensions” last year and enjoyed it.

Last edited 26 days ago by James Allport
Ian
Ian
Reply to  James Allport
26 days ago

Are you suggesting that there are other deans who don”t ‘pray steadily” ?

James Allport
James Allport
Reply to  Ian
26 days ago

No.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  James Allport
26 days ago

A luminous book by Jessica Martin at a time when, for the sake of the world and hence herself, the Church needs to re-learn what it means to live eucharistically: “For ritual is not only a bridge between physicality and the unseen world. It also sits on the border between the dead weight of what is and the quick energy of what might be. Both what is and what might be have to find full expression within the ritual enactments of the eucharist. Heartbreak and hope are both its honoured guests, for without the one the other cannot be complete.… Read more »

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy
26 days ago

Super appointment. Great to see this.

T Pott
T Pott
26 days ago

Just from reading these announcements there are several strikng elements. The bishop seems to believe that God has called the new Dean, and expresses herself delighted with His choice. The Interim Dean, while also delighted, thinks the new Dean has been appointed. At Ely Cathedral she had special responsibility for “learning”, Does no-one else at Ely Cathedral learn? Not their job? That might explain why she has been one of two theological advisors to the bishops of the Church of England. Aren’t bishops supposed to learn theology for themselves? Obviously not in Ely, but elsewhere? The Interim Dean is busy… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  T Pott
25 days ago

Is it not time to drop the pompous pretence that it is usually just clergy who are “called by God” when they move jobs? I have never heard my local bin man or check-out girl at ASDA claim that God placed them in post. Equally, it is painful to hear ordinands often claim how they wrestled with their vocation until, finally, they resisted and God ensnared them in the end. Pomposity about being “chosen” is an insufferable trait of the clerically self-important.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavid H
25 days ago

It isn’t just clergy who claim that God led them to their career or current post. Long ago I thought that God had led me to a job as shop assistant – I still think that was true. I’ve known doctors, teachers, and others who saw their work as a vocation God guided them to.

The key is what a church teaches about God’s leading in our daily lives, and praying about decisions we make. In churches where that’s the case, any job can be, and is, seen as God’s calling.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Janet Fife
25 days ago

Spot on the mark!

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
25 days ago

When I retired at the end of last year, I had a very strong sense that God was calling me to rest for a while, and not get immediately sucked into the usual route of making myself available for Sunday services all over the place, and for interim ministries and so on. My wife and I have sat apart in church for over forty years; we’re ready to sit together for a while, and worship together as Christians. But more than that; I felt as if I was being called to ‘clear the decks’ and make room for something new;… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
25 days ago

I hope you are enjoying your retirement. In my local parish, the vicar has been told by God not to use the four retired clergy who are more than happy to help out. There are four of us. We could serve elsewhere but, as Area Dean, she has control of neighbouring parishes. It is beyond my comprehension why God has called her to place us on the scrap heap.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
24 days ago

I’m very sorry you feel you’ve been placed on the scrap heap. I certainly don’t feel that way.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavid H
24 days ago

What a difficult situation, and how frustrating. But surely other parishes’ incumbents are free to ask you to minister, assuming you have PTO? Area Deans don’t have despotic powers.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Janet Fife
24 days ago

That is a possibility which some of us may seek

Last edited 24 days ago by FrDavid H
Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavid H
23 days ago

Incumbents are usually desperate for help. I’m sure they’d be interested when they know you’re all available. Could you travel outside your deanery if things are difficult within it?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Janet Fife
23 days ago

Yes. We can travel. I may ask the bishop why, after being given PTO, a vicar can withdraw the permission.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  FrDavid H
22 days ago

A vicar can’t be forced to ask any given priest to minister in their church – and rightly so. But nor can a vicar prevent clergy with PTO from ministering in other parishes.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Janet Fife
22 days ago

You are probably correct. It seems odd that a vicar can ban FOUR retired priests from her parish. I think it says a lot about her.

Ex clergy
Ex clergy
Reply to  Janet Fife
23 days ago

Happened to me, a new incumbent and I was told I couldn’t do anything. I was stopped from doing any baptisms, weddings and funerals and only used infrequently for services. I was well regarded but approaching retirement.
Left now as I wasn’t getting involved with his politics

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  FrDavid H
25 days ago

Good point, Father. I found, when I came to regard my work as a motor tax and licensing officer as being a divine calling, my whole approach to work changed. It helped that I was directly serving the public, keeping them legal or safe, and that sense of purpose kept me going through some very hard times. It was so annoying before that, to see or hear the mantra that really, God’s ultimate plan for our ‘calling’ was full time Christian work; that that was somehow superior to the day to day, 9 to 5 job which is the lot… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  John Davies
24 days ago

Absolutely right, John. After all, Paul wasn’t writing to ‘ordained clergy’ when he said ‘And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him’ (Colossians 3.17). Personally, I’ve never liked the term ‘holy orders’; I believe that anyone who responds to the call of Jesus to follow him is under (not ‘in’) holy orders, whether they’re ordained or not.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  John Davies
23 days ago

I have a friend who saw her work in a car showroom as God’s calling. She was very enthusiastic about it.

George Herbert wrote:

Teach me, my God and King,
in all things thee to see
and what I do in anything,
to do it as for Thee

All may of thee partake:
nothing can be so mean,
which with this tincture, ‘For Thy sake,’
will not grow bright and clean.

A servant with this clause
makes drudgery divine;
who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
makes that and the action fine.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Janet Fife
23 days ago

I’d forgotten that hymn, Janet. Thanks for the reminder!

Felicity Cooke
Felicity Cooke
Reply to  T Pott
25 days ago

A quick glance at the Ely Cathedral website will tell you more about what ‘learning’ means in this context. ‘Canon Martin oversees the work of the Learning Team in their engagement with schools, home educators, children and families, and puts on learning and engagement opportunities for adults, whether as lectures, discussion groups, or as an aspect of larger events. She oversees front-facing volunteer groups, both those responsible for the pastoral care of visitors such as the Day Chaplains, and those engaged in enhancing the experience of visitors, such as the Guides. She engages with ‘public square’ issues, both within and… Read more »

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