Rev Martin Anderson, chaplain of Sunderland Minster, is moving to pastures new after nearly eight years on Wearside.
He becomes priest-in-charge of Norton’s St Mary and St Michael and All Angels, in Teesside, from September 8.
Rev Anderson, who describes himself as a “SAFC convert”, said he had fallen in love with Sunderland.
During his time on Wearside he has been involved with a variety of projects, including the street pastors and helping to recruit matchday stewards at the Stadium of Light, as well as making headlines by foiling a thief who tried to steal the lightning conductor from the Minster roof.
He told the Echo: “After seven and a half excellent years falling in love with the city by the sea, my ministry and vocation as a priest in the Church of England takes me on near to my birthplace in Norton, Teesside.
“Life in Sunderland is amazing: it’s a place where people are super-friendly, extraordinarily hard-working and appreciative of a vast wealth of cultural and leisure attractions that the rest of the world often misses out on.
“It took me only a year or so to feel like an adopted Mackem in Sunderland. Working at a church that is open seven days a week means you are able to encounter people from all walks of life and get a good feel for a place pretty quickly.
“Even after 15 years of the city being given a Minster, following the city status granted in 1992, however, it’s incredible to imagine that local people have never been in, and with each visitor still the sense of happiness and joy of discovery remains.”
Being a city-centre chaplain is not without its unusual challenges, as Rev Anderson found out when he stumbled across a thief’s desperate bid to steal the Minster’s lightning conductor in November 2011.
He was in morning prayer inside the High Street West church when he heard something suspicious.
He rushed to the back of the building, where he saw the man climbing up the drainpipe trying to steal the copper conductor, which reaches to the top of the Minster.
The Rev Anderson’s sudden appearance startled the would-be burglar, who grabbed his mountain bike and then sped off.
“Moving into a post as a vicar of a newly created urban Minster was not without challenge,” he said.
“Some of my key memories at Sunderland Minster include one-to-one prayerful chats with various individuals awaiting judgement at the nearby magistrates’ courts, brilliant events for young people, and a range of excellent concerts and musical and arts events.
“Working as a priest nowadays in the church means that you have to engage well with your context, whilst keeping the fundamental truths of the Gospel as a basis for everything you do.
“The Minster seeks daily to make the light of Christ known in a place where the light clearly shines, and not only on match days surrounded by red and white.
“What a privilege to work in a place where young and old alike are cared for, in a city which will always be dear to my heart.”
Also on the move in the Diocese of Durham is Rev David Boddy, who is leaving Haswell, Shotton and Thornley to become Rector in Charge of Somerleyton Group Ministry, in Norwich.