Huge rise in number of young people wanting to be clergy in the Church of England

Martin Sheppard, York diocese CofEA young man beong ordained by the Archbishop of York

The Church of England is reporting a 14 per cent increase in numbers training for the priesthood, including a 17 per cent increase in women.

The stats have been published as 543 men and women prepare to begin training for ordination at colleges across England.

Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson, said, 'I am delighted at both the number and the range of those whom God has been calling into ordained ministry over the course of the past year.

'Here are men and women who are choosing to put their faith on the line, so as to bring hope and spiritual nourishment to individuals and communities alike. In an increasingly uncertain world, nothing could be a greater privilege than walking alongside people in their joys and sorrows, from birth to grave.'

Catherine Nancekievill, the Church's head of vocation, said, 'The Church's aim is to reflect our diversity in the priesthood and whilst we have a long way to go in achieving this, I am delighted that increasing numbers of women now feel that a life in ordained ministry is for them. This is a big step in breaking down the stereotypes, which is crucial in order to attract underrepresented groups.'

One in four of those starting training this year is aged under 32.

Nancekievill added, 'The Church takes seriously the signs that God is calling millennials to consider careers that offer the opportunity to work for the common good.'

Part of the growth has come through the Church increasing its presence at Christian festivals and on social media to raise basic awareness of vocation among Christians. The Church has also been expanding its scheme that offers on-the-job ministry experience.

Sir Philip Mawer, who chairs Allchurches Trust, which is funding the Church's ministry experience scheme, said, 'Young people are known to care deeply about finding a role in which they can help make the world a better place and for an increasing number that means going into ministry. We look forward to working with the Church as they develop the Ministry Experience Scheme to offer a path to lay or ordained ministry for a greater number and ever wider range of people.'

The increase follows the launch in 2015 of Renewal and Reform, a programme that aims to breathe new life into the Church through growing lay and ordained vocations, increasing flexibility in funding and reducing red tape to enable local churches better to serve their communities.