Farewell service to Dean Frances

Hundreds of people have bid farewell to one of Suffolk’s most senior Church of England clergy who is leaving to study for a second doctorate and contribute to the life of the Church as a writer, author and theologian.

The Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury, led her final Choral Evensong attended by more than 300 guests at Bury St Edmunds Cathedral on Sunday (15 October), which concluded her seven years in the county.

Dean Frances, who has served within the Church for almost 30 years and was Suffolk’s first ever female Dean, was among the very first women in the country to be appointed to one of the most senior roles within the Church of England at a time when women did not then serve as bishops.

Dean Frances, 57, who is married to retired consultant paediatrician Peter and has four children, said: ‘‘I am leaving the Cathedral after seven rich and fulfilling years, when we’ve seen a great deal accomplished, strengthened by the Grace of God, and inspired by the Holy Spirit, as we seek to be a beacon of faith, hope and love in Suffolk.

‘‘I shall be heading north to join my husband Peter as he trains for the priesthood and as I do so I shall miss the people of the cathedral, the town of Bury St Edmunds and the county of Suffolk enormously, and wish the cathedral the very best into the future.’’

Dean Frances will publish a book on the Church of England and education, and research a PhD on Edmund Burke at Durham University.

The Rt Revd Martin Seeley, Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, paid tribute to her tireless energy in strengthening the connections between the Church and society.

Bishop Martin said: “Frances has led the cathedral with passion and energy over these past seven years. I will miss her thoughtful support and encouragement as well as her ability to challenge us. 

“There are many whose lives have been touched by her vision and her perceptive spiritual wisdom and I know she will be greatly missed.  I wish her and Peter well as they faithfully embrace this next stage of God’s call to them.”

The Rt Revd Graeme Knowles, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese, will serve as Acting Dean until a permanent successor is appointed next year.

Photo credit: Keith Mindham




A smiling farewell from The Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury seated beside The Rt Revd Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury at St Edmundsbury Cathedral.




Warden Liz Steele presents The Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury with a farewell gift.



 The Very Reverend Dr Frances Ward, Dean of St Edmundsbury with husband Peter, centre, with from left, The Rt Revd Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury, Canon Precentor Philip Banks, Canon Matthew Vernon, Bishop John Waine and Bishop Tim Stevens.