A former Suffolk County Council leader is making the leap from council chamber to church. Mark Bee has been involved with politics since his university days when he was elected as President of the Student Union at Westminster College, Oxford. Studying for a degree in theology in the 1980s, Mark had every intention of moving towards ordination, but his career took a different direction.
Mark, who has been on the political scene in Suffolk since 1998, said: “I have been a Christian for more than 40 years and it has always been a big part of my life. Politics took over from what I was working to achieve so this is something that has been building up to this time in my life.”
Mark has been a Suffolk County Councillor since 2005 and was the leader from 2011-2015. He was also elected to Waveney District Council and served as a councillor for 21 years – nine of which as leader. It was during his time as county council leader that Mark came to know The Rt Revd Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.
“After the 2017 General Election, Bishop Martin asked me to chair a working party looking at clergy numbers throughout the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich,” Mark added. “It was this that sparked a renewed idea that I could still perhaps play a role in the church. I had to go through a selection process of formation and discernment with lots of interviews and discussions with various individuals.”
Mark was due to be ordained as a deacon at St Edmundsbury Cathedral however the ceremony has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, he was licensed as a minister online. Mark will act as a self-supporting minister within the Beccles parish, fulfilling his duties as part of a team.
He said: “Sitting in full cassock in a Zoom meeting being sworn in by the bishop was certainly a little different! However, our proper ordination will be held at the cathedral on September 5 when the Bishop will lay his hands on me to officially become a deacon. My training will then continue while working in the Parish of Beccles at St Michael’s and St Luke’s under the supervision of Revd Rich Henderson. That will prepare me for the second ordination next year when I will be ordained as a priest.”
He added: “I can’t quite believe it’s happening to be honest. It’s really exciting, and the more I have read and been part of an excellent group of like-minded people, the more it feels like I’m in the right place at the right time. I’m in my mid 50s and taking on a whole new career path. I cannot wait to continue moving forward.”
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