Archdeacon Michael Everitt has had many key roles in the Blackburn Diocese. As he prepares to take up a new post at Durham Cathedral he shares memories of his time in Lancashire with Fiona Finch.
A happy compromise brought Archdeacon Michael Everitt to Lancashire.
When he was ordained his wife’s parents lived in Carlisle and his family home was in the Midlands. Lancashire seemed a good half way point so he duly penned a letter to the Bishop of Blackburn asking if there were any opportunities, telling him: “I grew up in the countryside and I’m used to the inner city.”
He explained he was not so suited to seaside or suburb postings - and was sent to Cleveleys. Since then he has worked across the diocese, including stints as chaplain at St Martin’s College, Lancaster, as Rector of Standish and Area Dean of Chorley.
He has been priest in charge of Appley Bridge and became Archdeacon of Lancaster in 2011.Now he is set to rejoice in another title and another role.
This summer the 50 year old will leave the Blackburn Anglican diocese he has served for some 27 years to move north and become Canon Pastor at Durham Cathedral.
He said: “The Cathedral has the shrine of St Cuthbert, it’s a fine Norman building. The big difference is I look after the Church of England parishes from the Ribble up to the Cumbrian border. In Lancashire I drive about 12,000 miles a year and I’m going to be living in Cathedral Close in Durham, walking to work.”
Each year thousands of visitors make their way to Durham Cathedral and Michael will be pastor to the cathedral congregation and will oversee the work of its education, library and collections teams and head its student ministry.
The former comprehensive school pupil took a theology degree at King’s College, London before training for ordination at Queen’s College, Birmingham and then spent a year at the English College in Rome in 1991.
As a student he worked as part of the St Paul’s pastoral team in London’s Covent Garden – with the homeless, at the Royal Ballet and Royal Opera House. He also worked for emerging wallpaper and fabric specialist Zoffany and the company offered him a job: ”That was the pivotal stage when they offered me a very good job and ... I ‘m not actually going to work for money; I’m going to work for the church.”
Of the Durham posting he said: “It’s everything I’m interested in. I love historic buildings, I love good music. I love working with people. I’m going to be working with university students and I worked as a university chaplain for many years. I’m going to be working with schools and I’ve been Chair of the (Diocesan) Board of Education.”
He added: “I’m obsessed with education, getting people to be able to explore their positive potentials and see them flourish, that’s been quite a driving force for me.”
While Archdeacon he also took on an interim role from 2018 to April this year as Rector of Preston with responsibility for the churches of Preston St John Minster, St George’s and the Christ the King Chapel
. He recalls: “I had council leader Coun Peter Rankin’s funeral one day and a couple of days later I had the funeral of a roadsweeper who lived just round the corner and about three weeks later I buried the bones of someone from Tudor times, which demonstrates the diversity of what the Minster is involved in. It was nice to be looking after the church the city of Preston looks towards.”
Another memorable moment came with a sponsored parachute jump last year (see photo left) which raised more than £4,000 to support the work of the Peru mission in Iquitos in the Amazon basin.
He and wife Ruth, a French,Spanish and Greek teacher who works at Oakhill school at Whalley, joined Oakhill pupils and staff on a trip to the Mission to help build a new classroom sewer. He said: “I did the parachute jump because I’m terrified of heights and if I’m terrified of something I seek to face it down...I’m still terrified of heights!”
The Archdeacon added: “I’m itching to go back. Equally I’m itching to go back to some of the townships in South Africa.”
It was following his curacy at St Andrew’s in Cleveleys that he went to Blackburn’s Link diocese, Bloemfontein, now the Free State, in South Africa for three years. He and wife Ruth were newly married and in their 20s and he recalled: ”It totally changed how I engage with things, learning to live by faith, learning what really matters, learning what priorities are.
“It opened my eyes to the horror of the HIV pandemic - almost all of my friends (there) of my age group and above are now dead from HIV. “
He remembers taking part in baptising 120 babies, all orphaned by AIDS. But he says such tragedy did not lead him to question his faith. He welcomed the dedication and work of those who sought to find a way to combat and prevent the spread of the disease.
He said :”The God that I believe in, the God of Jesus Christ for me is one who identifies with people who are suffering.”
As he prepares to leave Lancashire he will remember: “The openness of the people. The friendliness of the people. The fact that Lancashire folk live up to the old adage of deeds not words. The beautiful landscape and the multicultural diversity of Lancashire.”
New challenges lie ahead for this father of two - not least moving lock, stock and barrel to Durham, where, because of the medaeval archway to the Cathedral Close it will be impossible to get a furniture van direct to the door of their new home.
But as his parachuting experience shows ...obstacles are there to be overcome.
* Michael will be installed as Canon Pastor in Durham Cathedral on September 22 at There will be a service
of thanksgiving for Michael and Ruth’s ministry in the Blackburn Diocese at 6pm on Saturday, July 13 in Blackburn Cathedral.