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South Norfolk rector retires after 34 years

Rector of Mulbarton, Rev Jess Stubenbord, and his wife Anne-Mary enjoyed a bumper retirement send-off on Saturday, February 23 at the village infant and junior schools before pursuing their plans to explore Eastern Europe in a camper van. Sandie Shirley reports.

JessAnneMaryStubenbord450Jess who has been in full- time Christian ministry for 34 years, officially said goodbye to parishioners at Mulbarton, and folk from the other villages of Hethel, Bracon Ash and Flordon  where he had been for nearly two decades.
The fond farewell included a celebration cake with vote of thanks, worship, thanks giving and prayer followed by a supper presentation and barn dance.
Jess, who helped lead his wife to faith in Christ before they married, joined the Anglican Church after working with ex-offenders in residential care – the couple are still in contact with some of those ex-offenders countless years later.
“We have always been interested in people and wanted the freedom to share the gospel,” he says.  The door to the Anglican Church swung open, explains Jess. “It provided the freedom to share God’s love through an open door into people’s homes and we knew it was where God wanted us to serve.” 
Jess reflected on the last two decades at the parish church in rural South Norfolk where he preached for the last time on February 24: “It has been a joy to be surrounded by a great team of gifted people who have been willing to grow and reach out with the love of Jesus. The past year we have ‘planted’ a new church congregation and are taking Café Church into the heart of the community. Then in two smaller villages Messy Church has begun. So we praise God for signs of growth and pray for good fruit.”
“As a minister, one of my greatest joys is seeing people grow in prayer and get to grips with God’s word as they have the desire and see the need to grow spiritually and see their gifts develop to serve Jesus. However, there is also great frustration when this doesn’t seem to happen.” 
Another frustration is the draining administrative and medieval buildings work, explained Jess.
Mulbarton church has a diverse mix of families, youth and older people.  “The youth are really going for God. Our youth worker is helping to fan their gifting into flame as God is evidently touching them,” said Jess. “One young girl feels God’s call to worship and has had a prophetic word about ministering in Africa and another lad, at 14, definitely feels God’s call to preach, he said.
“During the years we have also been encouraged by the growing, good relationships with the schools and wider village community and so we are praying for a younger replacement to build and develop this,” said Jess.
His Church of England ministry began with a curacy in Cromer and also included a hospital chaplaincy role at the James Paget Hospital. The Gorleston hospital job was “very fulfilling”. A small team would have the freedom to pray for vulnerable people from different backgrounds on Saturday evenings, taking the lover and healer of their souls into the hospital wards.  In those days the hospital chaplain needed no appointment but nowadays you have to be summoned by a patient to attend, explains Jess.  After this they spent eight years in Saxthorpe and surrounding villages in North Norfolk.
The couple plan to spend more time with family when they retire and tour Eastern Europe in a camper van.  “I want to explore this part of Europe and see how the churches are faring. A long time ago I did a degree in French, German and Russian so I am hoping to communicate a bit,” said Jess.  On their return the couple are waiting to see what God places on their heart in the way of voluntary service.

Pictured above are Jess and Anne-Mary Stubenbord.

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