Howard has faith in science

Howard Leatherbarrow, new deacon for St Ann's Church in Rainhill, with Bishop of Liverpool, Bishop Paul Bayes (left), and Bishop of Warrington, Bishop Richard Blackburn
Howard Leatherbarrow, new deacon for St Ann's Church in Rainhill, with Bishop of Liverpool, Bishop Paul Bayes (left), and Bishop of Warrington, Bishop Richard Blackburn

A former scientist with a PhD in bacterial genetics has been ordained as a deacon to the Church of England.

Howard Leatherbarrow, who also has a degree in microbiology, is hoping to reconnect with young people in the parish when he starts work at St Ann’s in Rainhill.

Howard was ordained at Liverpool Cathedral by the Bishop of Liverpool, Bishop Paul Bayes.

He said: “As a St Helens native, it will be great to work here, as I have been doing part-time for the past year.

“I am looking forward to engaging with a new congregation, and learning how to be a practical parish minister. “Hopefully, there will be opportunities to develop Fresh Expressions, especially as we look to reconnect with young people in the parish.

“I am especially keen to understand how we can use the occasional offices of Baptism, Marriage and Funerals to re-engage with our communities.

“I hope to serve God and the church as a curate and vicar, developing ecumenical Fresh Expressions and helping, in my small way, to redefine the position of the Church of England within the parishes to which I minister. If we can improve the way we communicate the Gospel, then the battle is half won!”

Although no longer a practising scientist after leaving in 2011 to take up a post with the Diocese, he remains passionate about science and is very keen that the science/faith debate is addressed in an informed manner.

He explained: “My calling was mainly revealed through change – God so often uses changing circumstances to reveal His plans.

“Being a University research scientist, in a very atheist setting, was a huge challenge, but I felt that God was calling me out of that life an into a new one, taking with me my understanding of the natural world and refining it with a theological and spiritual dimension, to equip me to better relate the story of Jesus in the twenty-first century.”

He has spent the past five years working in the field of mission and church growth, most recently with SHINE, the ecumenical network in St Helens, and running a Fresh Expressions course and follow-up with Bootle Team Ministry. He added: “I believe strongly that fresh, innovative thinking, and a willingness to embrace radical change, are the things which will help us make the church more relevant to our communities.”