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Church appoints new Rural Officer

[Tuesday 15 February 2011]

The Church of England’s Diocese of Ripon and Leeds has signified its continued commitment to the countryside with the appointment of a successor to former rural officer Canon Leslie Morley, who retired last year. Mr Andy Ryland, the Transport and Visitor Management Officer for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, has been named as the new Rural Officer for the diocese.

Andy, (49), brings a wealth of experience to the strategic role which he will take up in April. He joined the Yorkshire Dales National Park in 1998 and during that time he has worked on National Park policies and strategies, liaised with local Parish Councils, local authorities and wider bodies and been involved in the development of visitor management strategies for the Park.

The Bishop of Knaresborough, Rt. Revd James Bell, who has a national role on rural concerns, welcomed the appointment: “I am delighted by the exciting appointment of Andy Ryland as Rural officer. This is a tremendously important role for the whole Diocese in these times when issues such as food and farming, the care and use of the countryside, sustainable communities and indeed, the Big Society, are so prominent. Andy brings both a wealth of experience and an excellent range of skills from engaging with people, motivating and encouraging others to forming partnerships. I very much look forward to working with him on rural affairs."

Andy and his wife Ellyn, a part-time GP, live with their two young sons in Linton near Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales. He is a member of Skipton Baptist Church and attends services at St Michael’s Church in Linton. With a degree in Recreational Studies and qualifications in Community and Youth Work, Andy’s career has taken him to jobs in both Shropshire, as Rural Transport Field Worker, and a similar post with Cumbria County Council before coming to Yorkshire. During his time in Cumbria, Andy was a volunteer at the Calvert Trust outdoor centre for people with disabilities. Two years ago he became the Bishop of Bradford’s nominee on the Council of the Scargill Movement.

Andy’s new part-time role in the Diocese is one that he says is looking forward to: “I am particularly looking forward to meeting people seeing the projects they are involved with and hearing how God has been working: in their lives, in the lives of rural communities and local churches in the Diocese.”

One of Andy’s concerns, he says, is to support rural churches as a vital part of local rural communities. “We are living in a time when a lot of change is occurring; in this context I believe that churches have a really important role to communicate Christ’s message, in a manner which is relevant for 21st century rural communities and their visitors.” He added, “Archbishop John Sentamu recently pointed out when asked about the Big Society, “The church has been doing it for over 2000 years!” I see that rural churches have an immensely important role in building on this foundation; immersing themselves in their communities and in addressing the issues that are affecting rural life.”

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