The Dean of Wells, John Clarke, to retire in December 2015 after 11 years in post
Wells: John Clarke, Dean of Wells, is to retire on December 31st 2015. John came to Wells in 2004 after having been Principal of Ripon College Cuddesdon, the Anglican theological training institution outside Oxford. John’s time as Dean has seen the completion of the cathedral development project initiated by his predecessor Richard Lewis. The project was described by English Heritage as ‘one of the biggest building projects at a medieval cathedral since the Reformation.’ In 2014 the conservation of the 14th century Jesse Window in the Quire, one of the major medieval church windows in England, was completed. Wells is known for its outstanding music and in 2011 Wells Cathedral Choir was named the best choir with children in the world. John has overseen structural change in the cathedral staff team and the development of its commercial capacity.
John chairs the governors of Wells Cathedral School and will be remembered for having led the building of a £10m recital hall and music resource to successful completion. In the city of Wells, as chair of the medieval almshouses he has led the reform of the management of the organization and has seen many of the houses refurbished.
John has played an active role in the Diocese of Bath and Wells and nationally where he has served as a Church Commissioner for England. He has overseen the farewell to Bishop Peter Price and the welcome of Bishop Peter Hancock. He has been active in the diocese in leading discussions about human sexuality and the changing understanding of marriage. The county of Somerset has been grateful for his leadership of the farewell to Lady Gass and the welcome of Annie Maw as Lord Lieutenant. In 2009 he led the funeral of Harry Patch, the last veteran of the trenches of the First World War.
John has encouraged the cathedral in its role as a place of welcome, open and accessible to all. In his preaching and teaching he has aimed to make the Christian faith alive and relevant to 21st century life. He accompanies a number of people on their spiritual journey.
John said: “It has been a privilege to serve as Dean of Wells and to work with clergy and lay colleagues on the cathedral chapter. This much-loved cathedral has an outstanding team of highly committed staff and volunteers that enable so many different activities to take place in and around the building. I am sorry to retire earlier than I intended following a stroke in April 2015, but I look forward to coming back to Wells and seeing future growth and development of the building and of the contemporary community of faith.”
The Rt Revd Peter Hancock, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, says, “Now is not the time to say our formal farewells, but it is the time to say how much John and Cressida will be missed. They have made many friends across the diocese and the county and John’s ministry as Dean has been greatly appreciated. I personally shall miss his friendship and support. John has been a wonderful, joyful and resourceful colleague and I am grateful to him for his very warm welcome when I was appointed as bishop.”
Dr Paul Richards, the Cathedral Administrator said “It has been a privilege for all of us at the Cathedral, Chapter, staff and volunteers to have served with and under John as our Dean. He has brought quite a special and sensitive way of both keeping us together through differences of opinion and bringing us through times of change. He is a very wise and kind man. That kindness has all too often been at his own expense”
Annie Mawe, the Lord Lieutenant of Somerset said “John has been a prominent and much loved figure in the public life of Somerset during his years as Dean of Wells. I, personally, owe much to him and will miss his wisdom and guidance a great deal. On behalf of us all in our county, I wish him a long and happy retirement”.
John will say farewell to the diocese of Bath and Wells and to the county of Somerset at Cathedral Evensong on Thursday 19 November at 5.15pm and to the cathedral congregation and volunteers at the eucharist on Sunday 22 November at 9.45am.
The Dean and his wife will be moving to Chippenham but look forward to seeing their friends from the diocese of Bath and Wells. His successor will be a Crown Appointment and announced by Downing Street after a process of selection is undertaken.