A VICAR has decided to take a three-month sabbatical after almost 11 years at his church.
The Rev Paul Watson, of Immanuel Church on New Lane, Oswaldtwistle, plans to use his break to study parishioners' roles in the church and the job of chaplains in prisons and hospitals.
Mr Watson, 51, who is married with four children, will continue to live at the vicarage next to the church, with the option to return to preaching in November.
The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, has agreed to the break and it will fall on the dean and the parish administrator, Jeff Roundell, to arrange cover for services.
Mr Watson, who has been ordained for 21 years, said he was looking forward to investigating new sectors of church life.
He said: "I hope to work with lay people and look at the role they play in the church, whether it is reading prayers, leading services or helping with the chalice and bread.
"I hope to look at what training they may need and combine this with looking at the value of chaplaincy in hospitals and prisons."
Mr Watson is no stranger to these branches of the Church of England, having spent time at Hindley Prison near Wigan as well as with the chaplain of Blackburn Royal Infirmary.
Before moving to Immanuel in 1996, he studied at Huddersfield Polytechnic and St John's College in Nottingham and worked at Meltham and St Alban's Church in Borehamwood.