Top Row: Mary Yasini, Arun Arora, Sarah Garland Middle Row: Jenny Guilder, Rachel Price, Sarah Heslop, Bottom row: Ben Coleman

Your News – St Nics, Durham

A Church at the heart of Durham City Centre is celebrating after the announcement that six members of its congregation have been recommended to train as vicars this year. The five women and one man will each be starting training for ordination as Priests in the Church of England in October 2020. Most of the soon to be vicars are in their twenties, with the youngest aged 21 and oldest 43, and come from a range of backgrounds with each having served in a variety of ways during their time at St Nics Church in Durham. 

The candidates will train in various locations across the country including Westcott House in Cambridge, Trinity College in Bristol, Cranmer Hall in Durham, Lindisfarne College of Theology and St Melitus college in Liverpool.

The Vicar of St Nics, Arun Arora said: “This really is extraordinary news. It is pretty much unheard of for this number of people from a single parish to be recommended for training in a single year. The way God is moving amongst us has led to this extraordinary situation. Each of these wonderful people will be an enormous blessing to the ministry, mission and service of the Church of England. I am especially pleased that 5 of those being called into leadership are women  – a real affirmation of God’s movement in Evangelical churches such as ours. The Diocese has shown incredible support, not least through the work of Alistair Prince, the Director of Vocations and Training, who has done so much to support these candidates in their placements, tests and interviews as part of the process. As one of the designated “Resource Churches” for the Diocese of Durham we are delighted that our prayers are being answered in seeing the Spirit of God at work amongst us in the lives of Mary, Sarah, Ben, Sarah, Jenny and Rachel.”

Mary Yasini, 21, will be one of the youngest ordinands in the Church of England. Having just completed her degree in Philosophy at the University of Durham, Mary will undertake her training at Westcott House in Cambridge. An active member of the Christian Union, and leader of its Club Mission to the night-time economy Mary has also worked as a volunteer in Durham and in a variety of roles at St Nics from the technical team to student support. Mary said: 

“When I was 8, my family and I fled from Iran due to fear of religious persecution. Growing up in England, I was grateful to freely worship God as an Anglican. At 17 I was in Taizé when I first sensed a call to serve the Church. Over the next few years, several people encouraged me to explore ordained ministry. I attended a conference about the theology of female ordination and gradually came to realise that I was being called to serve as a priest.”

Sarah Garland, 23, graduated from the University of Durham in 2019 with an MA in English Literature. She currently serves as a Ministry Experience Volunteer with the CofE in parishes in East Durham and is delighted to be forging ahead with plans for her wedding which is due to take place at St Nics in early August. She will undertake her training at Cranmer Hall in Durham. During her time as an undergraduate and postgraduate Sarah was heavily involved with “Just Love” group promoting prayer, advocacy and justice projects across the city. Sarah said: “Growing up and even during university I had not expected to be called to ordained ministry, and yet as I began to explore what God was calling me to do with my life I realised how much he has been preparing me for this role all through my life. I am so excited that this calling has been recognised and affirmed by others and that even in my weakness and humanity God is asking me to serve and follow him in this way. I feel particularly called to serve in the community, being part of a group of people, building relationships, supporting and nurturing each other in our discipleship and walking towards the Kingdom of God together.”

Ben Coleman, 24, is due to complete his PhD in Theology from the University of Durham and after seven years in Durham will undertake his training at Trinity College in Bristol. As both an undergraduate and postgraduate Ben has worked in a variety of roles at St Nics including being appointed the church’s first assistant student worker where he has mentored and supported many of those who have worshipped at St Nics as well as both leading and preaching at services. Ben said: “My journey to ordination training hasn’t been straightforward or easy – thank goodness God writes straight with crooked lines! But I am really excited to be taking this next step along the way in pursuing God’s call on my life. I’m immensely grateful for the many people who have encouraged me in my discernment, especially the many wonderful people of St Nic’s. It’s going to be hard leaving Nic’s and the North East, but I trust that God has good plans for me – as he does for every one of us. Much of the journey ahead is still unclear, but God is unchangingly good and faithful in accomplishing his purposes. I look forward to witnessing to all that God will do.’


Sarah Heslop, 43, a trained teacher and the full-time mum of the 3 boys, has been heavily involved in the life of her community and school over the past decade. Sarah has volunteered at Coxhoe Primary School for several years, working with children and supporting teachers and has also served as chair of the PTA. For the past three years, she has run an after school club on behalf of the local church which has now led to leading children’s church once a month. At St Nics Sarah has been involved in leading Messy Church, planning and leading all age services, mentoring the church’s youth worker and as a member of the PCC. She will undertake her training at Lindisfarne College of Theology. Sarah said: “ I love serving my community and sharing God’s great love with the people around me. I am excited about the opportunities which wearing a dog collar will bring me to do more of that and to encourage others to do the same. I look forward to walking alongside people in this great adventure of discipleship.”

Jenny Guilder, 33, a full-time mum of two, has recently moved back to her hometown of Lancaster after three years in Durham where her husband was training at Cranmer Hall. She will undertake her training at St Mellitus college North West, based in Liverpool.  Before moving to Durham Jenny had worked for three different churches in other parts of the country in youth, children and families ministries. At St Nics Jenny has planned and led holiday clubs, monthly family services and all-age worship. As part of the Cranmer Hall community, she has also led the spouse’s network. Jenny said: “After nearly 10 years ignoring God’s call, I finally began to listen!  As a priest, I long to be a person who bridges the gap between the church and the world.  The person who stands in the doorway of church ensuring the door is kept wide open both ways.”

Rachel Price, 25, currently works as the Co-ordinator for the Church of England’s Ministry Experience Volunteer scheme in Durham diocese. She will undertake her training at Cranmer Hall in Durham. Having completed her degree in Theology and English Literature from Durham University in 2017 Rachel spent two years working as a volunteer with parishes in East Durham which included a wide range of youth and children’s work and working in schools as well as leading and preaching on a regular basis. She has also been involved with churches across the diocese in the Growing Young Leaders course as well as serving in a variety of roles at St Nics. She has a passion for working alongside the vulnerable and those on the margins.

Rachel said: “ The two years I spent in East Durham after my degree, working with parish churches which were engaging in new forms of mission, left me with a strong sense of the unique role of the Church in providing unmatched love, hope and family at the heart of communities. Increasingly I felt compelled to be part of this. Part of my training will involve re-imagining how to be church – something I am excited to learn more about as I seek God’s leading for curacy and beyond.”

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