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First New Year for joint Methodist / Anglican ministry in North Yorkshire

2024 will be the Revd Melanie Burnside's first full year in the post described in last summer's job advert as "Unusual and exciting"

2024 will be the Revd Melanie Burnside’s first full year in the post described in last summer’s job advert as “Unusual and exciting” – and one of her tasks is to explain to people exactly what her job is.

Melanie’s job title is “Interim Priest in Charge – Joint Anglican-Methodist churches Helmsley area”, but when people in the Ryedale market town at the heart of her ‘patch’ ask her if she’s “the new Vicar of Helmsley,” she says, “I minister at All Saints’ and more…”

It’s so much more; Melanie looks after the Church of England parishes of Helmsley (including Sproxton, Rievaulx and East Moors) and of Upper Ryedale (Bilsdale, Cold Kirkby, Hawnby, Old Byland and Scawton), and is also the authorised presbyter to the Methodist Churches of Helmsley and Rievaulx – that’s nine Anglican and two Methodist churches altogether.

“It’s a creative solution to make the most of our resources,” says Melanie. Both the Methodists and the Church of England are challenged in rural areas to fund both buildings and paid ministers, so when the two posts fell vacant in the Helmsley area a conversation began between Ryedale Methodist Circuit Superintendent Minister the Revd Peter Sheasby and Archdeacon of Cleveland the Venerable Dr Amanda Bloor. 

Enabled by the 2003 Covenant between the Methodist Church and the Church of England, the two leadership teams reached agreement for a joint post serving the eleven churches, initially for three years with the possibility of a further three-year extension; they found the ideal candidate almost on their doorstep in Melanie Burnside, who had been Curate in the neighbouring Kirkdale group of churches.

Melanie grew up in Derbyshire but has lived and worked in North Yorkshire for over 20 years, fifteen in a small family agricultural business before she was ordained in 2021; her own Christian faith was shaped in the Methodist tradition and drew her to be ordained in the Church of England, with a strong appreciation of the different perspectives each church embodies.

“It’s not my job to merge the distinct church congregations, but to encourage them all to be engaged with the community in the world,” she says.

Support for Melanie’s post comes both from within the churches and from the wider community. Helmsley’s representative on North Yorkshire Council, Councillor George Jabbour, is an Eastern Orthodox Christian who finds the members of All Saints’ and the Methodist church in Helmsley very welcoming when he has joined Sunday worship with either congregation: “Since the start, I have been a big supporter of this pioneering arrangement and was absolutely delighted to welcome the Revd Melanie Burnside to her new role during her Licensing and Installation service in November on behalf of the residents of Helmsley.”

Melanie is supported by a number of ordained and lay ministers, including voluntary and active retired people from both traditions.

“I’m already enjoying getting to know the different communities around the churches,” she says, “and I’m excited to see how the opportunities of 2024 will unfold as we explore this new arrangement together.”