Following the retirement in September of Revd Canon Christopher Davies, Wymondham Abbey has announced that Catherine Relf-Pennington is to be the next vicar of Wymondham. She will be the 60th Vicar of the church, which was founded in 1107. She is also the Abbey’s first woman Vicar.
Catherine was born in Australia, raised in Hong Kong and attended school there and later went to university in the UK. Before becoming a priest Catherine was a research scientist in the field of Artificial Intelligence. “It’s a skill I’m still looking to put to use in the church!”, she joked. She was appointed to the role of Associate Vicar at Wymondham Abbey in 2013.
Catherine said “the role of vicar of any church is an important and demanding post. In a parish the size of Wymondham that is particularly true. The heart of the job is loving and serving the people of Wymondham and Spooner Row, whether they come to church or not. There is a great team at the Abbey and a wonderful church family. It is a great blessing and huge honour to have been appointed to this historic church and serve this community.”
“We are delighted with the appointment”, said head Churchwarden Bernard Douglass. “Although Catherine has been working at the church for over three years, she had to go through a full selection process, and she was clearly an outstanding candidate. We look forward to working closely with her as we embrace the challenging times ahead.”
The Bishop of Thetford, the Right Reverend Alan Winton was part of the selection panel. “Catherine is a first rate priest, and we were impressed with her obvious capabilities and vision for the parish,” he said.
Catherine will start her new job immediately, and will be formally ‘collated’ into the post in due course in a special ceremony at the church.
Catherine started her training to become a priest in 1998. Since then, she has held posts in Australia, Paris, London, Essex and Norfolk. She was appointed to the role of Associate Vicar at Wymondham Abbey in 2013, so is familiar to the Abbey’s congregation and is already known around the town.
Wymondham Abbey was founded in 1107, and has been the town parish church ever since. The building was originally much larger, with a monks’ church at the east end, and monastery buildings in what is now the meadow. The church that can be seen today is the part of the building which survived Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1538. In 2015 new rooms and facilities were opened. These contain exhibitions which tell the story of the people who have lived and worshipped here. The church is used every day for services and has an active community, with special events, educational activities and concerts throughout the year.