Two local church leaders are preparing to retire after serving a combined 83 years.
Majors Frances and Stephen Slade, who lead The Salvation Army branch in Wawn Street, South Shields, first met at the church’s ministerial training college in London.
They have served in a variety of challenging locations - including Belfast’s Shankill Road at the height of the Troubles.
Major Frances Slade is keen to define that retirement isn’t a completion of their journey.
She said: “I have a sense of fulfilment that I have completed this part of active service and ministry to God in The Salvation Army.
“However, ministry never ends – it simply takes a different form and enters a new phase.”
Not only have the couple served numerous churches, Major Stephen has also been the co-ordinator for The Salvation Army’s local emergency services response – ensuring north east England’s blue-light services are refreshed and supported during long callouts.
Major Frances has used her counselling qualifications to support her community’s mental wellbeing.
Major Stephen said: “It’s been a privilege to assist our emergency services with food and refreshments as they support our community, and to offer a safe space to them to have a break and find a listening ear.
The Slades’ retirement day - August 1 – also marks a milestone in their ministry and a belated rite of passage, setting up their first marital home.
Major Frances said: “We’ve been Salvation Army ministers our whole married life, so have moved into the church’s residence with each change of appointment.
“In retirement, we will be able to choose where we’d like to put down some roots and build our home together, knowing we won’t be moving on to something new.”
The couple’s first married appointment was to Belfast.
Major Frances and Major Stephen have served 41 years and 42 years, respectively, in Burnley, Brighouse, Hythe, Herne Bay, Tadley, Liverpool Kensington and Childwall Valley, Watford, Dundee, Sunderland, Seaham Harbour, West Cornforth and, finally, South Shields.
Anyone wishing to celebrate with the Slades is welcome to attend a service on Saturday, June 30, at 7pm and is encouraged to attend their final Sunday church meetings on July 1 at 10.30am and 6pm.
For more details, call 0191 496 7511 or email Stephen.Slade@salvationarmy.org.uk