Rise in number of young priests welcomed

Lichfield Diocese's director of ordinands, the Reverend David Newsome, is upbeat about the increase in young people training to be a priest.

The number of young people accepted for training for Church of England ministry reached a 20 year high last year, latest figures show. Last year, 112 people below the age of 30 were accepted.

Reverend Newsome said the figures reflected a "full recognition" in the Church that ministers need to reflect the diversity of the Body of Christ.

Matt Harbage, 27, was one of 2012's new ordinands. He is in his first year of training to be a priest at Westcott House in Cambridge.

He first thought about calling and ministry while attending a Baptist church during his secondary school years.

It was when he joined the chaplaincy team at Keele University that he started to think more seriously about becoming a priest.

"There was some recognition that the church reflects its leaders, and [is] keen to engage younger people in the church," he said.

"I wonder if there's a certain cynicism that age brings. I still believe we can radically transform the world and transform the church in the here and now."

Reverend Newsome says the increase in young ordinands reflects a break in traditional church wisdom that favoured those with a university degree and "life experience".

"Young clergy have their own experience to bring, which will be different to older clergy, but we will need both," he said.

"There is a sense in which age and maturity depends on the individual – you can have immature 60-year-olds.

"The church desperately needs the kind of passion and commitment that younger candidates can bring.

"It's a very exciting and extraordinary thing that young people are wanting to commit themselves to the church in uncertain times."