A priest has praised the people of Hartlepool after parishioners turned out in force to say a fond farewell.
Rev Chris Collison spent two emotional weekends saying his goodbyes as he retired as the vicar of the historic St Hilda’s Church on Hartlepool’s Headland.
The 67-year-old, who was also chaplain for the Mission to Seafarers for Hartlepool and North Tees, said it had been a busy time and “a bit emotional”.
Rev Collison said: “It was a wonderful weekend, well , two weekends, really, saying goodbye to everyone.
“There were lots of gifts from individuals, the church and the Mission to Seafarers, which was lovely.
“It has been quite emotional.
“Finishing full-time ministry is quite a big thing, but it has been a really joyful end.
“It has been a wonderful six years and I think we have left the church in good shape.”
Rev Collison said he and his wife, Anne, have enjoyed living in Hartlepool and will certainly be keeping in touch with friends they have made.
The reverend said making the decision to retire had not been an easy one but he felt the time was right.
He and Anne will move to Sussex next week, where they will be living near their son and grandchildren. However, he said they will be making regular trips back up north to visit their daughter, who lives in Yorkshire.
Rev Collison said: “I think Hartlepool is a great place to live, and it has been a real privilege.
“It was a tough decision but I’m convinced it’s the right one.
“Anne has done a huge amount of work with me as a parish children’s worker, and she has been a massive, wonderful help.
“We’re going to take away a lot of very good memories, as we’ve had a great time here.”
Now, the pair are looking forward to their well-earned retirement and plan to do some travelling.
During his time in the town Rev Collison has overseen a number of improvements at St Hilda’s, including building restoration, putting in new seating and doing work with children, including putting on activities.
The Associate Priest at St Hilda’s, Rev Verity Brown, will oversee the running of the church until a replacement for Rev Collison is chosen.