A MINISTER who has dedicated 15 years to supporting parishioners on Wearside has announced his retirement.
Reverend Derek Aldridge, who was based at St John’s Methodist Church, in Ashbrooke, Sunderland, is stepping down after conducting more than 500 weddings and nearly 450 baptisms.
“I’ve had an amazing time here,” said the 64-year-old. “The people here are so friendly. I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Born in Wales, Rev Aldridge relocated to the North East after quitting his job as an accountant and studying at theological college.
He was initially based in Chester-le-Street and Newcastle, before moving to Wearside.
“I love the North East,” he said. “It’s a bit like Wales in many respects, with its former mining villages and communities. I’ve never had any regrets about moving to the region.
“I consider myself very lucky to have spent so much time here.”
Rev Aldridge was initially appointed as superintendent minister to Sunderland South Circuit, with particular responsibility for St John’s and South Hylton.
However, when the Sunderland North and South Circuits amalgamated, he became superintendent for the new area in 2006.
The dad-of-two has also been involved with Sunderland High School and Argyle House, conducting carol and special services.
“I’ve seen many changes in my time here,” he said. “It has been great sharing so many important times with people, such as weddings and baptisms.
“At one time, I would conduct maybe three or four in one day. My wife would send me out with a packed lunch and I wouldn’t be back until later that evening.”
Despite retiring as a Methodist minister, Rev Aldridge, who is now living in Houghton, hopes to continue preaching after a break.
“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed,” he said. “The ministry has been my life 24-7 for a long time. I hope to continue preaching when I can.”