A priest who led the prayers at one of Queen Elizabeth’s landmark birthdays has retired after serving a key role within the Diocese of Newcastle.
Revd Claire Robson said it was “an honour and a privilege” to serve as Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) from 2018 until last Christmas.
The highly responsible yet fulfilling role saw Claire work as part of the discernment process to identify those suitable for ordination.
Claire, who is originally from Hartlepool, returned to the North East after serving in high profile roles elsewhere in the country. She was Vicar at Bath Abbey in Somerset and prior to that was Minor Canon Chaplain at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. It was during her time at St Paul’s when Claire was handed the honour of organising the National Service of Thanksgiving for the 80th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen in 2006.
More recently, Claire’s service within the Diocese included the role of Assistant Area Dean in Bellingham Deanery, and Associate Priest at Hexham Abbey during Canon Dr Dagmar Winter’s time as Rector.
“I’ve had a hugely rich and enjoyable time with the Diocese,” said Claire, who will continue to live in the area at Humshaugh in the rural Tyne Valley. “It has been a privilege to meet and to work with so many extraordinary people who I will continue to pray for.”
Claire’s arrival in Newcastle came about after nine years at Bath Abbey. When she expressed a desire to return to her native North East, Bishop Christine offered her a role initially as Interim DDO.
“I had previously worked in a variety of city and rural contexts,” said Claire. “I had also carried out some vocations work in the dioceses of Salisbury, London and Bath & Wells. That background, and working in a variety of contexts and traditions, was very useful for the role.”
Claire was well suited to working with Bishops during the discernment process, and also individuals who felt that they were being called to ministry. That’s what she did at a local level within Newcastle diocese, but Claire also became a Bishop’s Adviser for National Selection Panels - a role she will continue to perform.
She added: “It takes a great deal of courage for anyone to come forward and say they feel called to ministry – and there’s a huge variety of people, from teenagers to 60+. For some it might lead to ordination, whereas others are more suited to a lay role. The discernment process is very much one of exploration. It’s about encouraging, enabling, giving confidence to people to explore. It’s a lengthy process and it’s a great responsibility, but we want to see whether or not God is seeking for them to be ordained.”
The process also involves speaking to church communities and seeking advice from referees as well as input from national selection panels.
“It has been an absolute honour and privilege to serve Bishops Christine and Mark,” said Claire. “I want to thank them and also give particular gratitude to Canon Christine Brown who has worked as Associate DDO and the other members of the DDO team.”
Prior to her career in the church, Claire was a deputy headteacher in North London. She went on to serve as a priest in Dorset, then in West Hampstead in London before moving to St Paul’s Cathedral, where she served as the Rector of the Society of Catholic Priests for the Diocese of London, a role which she also held in Newcastle diocese.
In retirement, Claire is looking forward to travelling and catching up with friends and family. She will continue to serve as a member of the House of Clergy on General Synod.
She added: “As a priest you never really retire. After a period of time I will see if I can be useful and assist at a parish in the Diocese.”
Bishop Mark has announced that the Revd Dr Hannah Cleugh has agreed to serve as Interim DDO on a part time basis, whilst continuing as vicar of St Peter Monkseaton. She will be supported by the Revd Dr Alastair Price, who is DDO for Durham Diocese. A new DDO is set to be appointed in the early summer.
Bishop Mark said he was deeply thankful to Claire and also to Christine Brown, who has stepped down at the same time. To contact the DDO email DDO@newcastle.anglican.org or call 07741 849651.