HE’S BEEN dubbed an inspirational leader who brought life to the teaching of the Waterlooville church he served at for 13 years.
And now the Rev Canon Mike Sheffield – known as Father Mike – is reflecting on his 38 years in ordained ministry.
Having spent the past 13 years at St George’s Church in Waterlooville, the diocese of Portsmouth’s longest-serving parish priest was given a big send-off.
Father Mike’s friends, family, and members of the church and the community gathered as the 64-year-old Essex-born priest gave his last service.
Followed by a procession into Waterlooville town centre and a picnic, those who have worked closely with Mike wanted to thank him for his dedication to the church and hard work throughout the area.
Fr Mike, whose first post was as curate at St John’s Church in Locks Heath, said: ‘I was ordained in 1979 when I moved to Portsmouth. I originally trained as a teacher and worked at a school in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
‘After that I trained for ordained ministry in Salisbury.
‘My grandfather and uncle were both ministers so I suppose it was in my blood to get involved with the church in some way.
‘It just felt right.’
After his time at Locks Heath, Father Mike set off to Ryde on the Isle of Wight, where he began 13 years of service there.
In 1996 he became vicar of St Alban’s Church in West Leigh, Havant.
Father Mike added: ‘I’ve really enjoyed working at different parishes alongside different people, and in many communities.
‘A highlight of my career was in 2002, when Portsmouth diocese celebrated its 75th anniversary.
‘I was given the honour of organising the open-air Diocesan Eucharist, in which there was a massive procession from the Isle of wight to Southsea’s Castle Field, involving 6,000 people.
‘It was an amazing event and one I was privileged to run.’
Father Mike, whose wife Lynda Sheffield was also heavily involved with St George’s, became vicar of the Waterlooville church in 2004.
During his time there he worked with schools, the elderly, visited hospitals, and arranged processions.
As well as for his in the wider community, the 64-year-old has been praised among residents and churchgoers for starting Waterlooville Music Festival 12 years ago – a week-long event hosted each year by the church.
Speaking of his joy in being able to do something different everyday, father Mike added: ‘One minute I’m doing a great service, the next I’m talking to children in an assembly.
‘I’ve never had a typical day in church.
‘To know that about 4,600 people visited this year’s music festival, the most we’ve ever had, means finishing my time as a priest on a high.
‘I’ve made some brilliant friends at St George’s and I’ve worked with an incredibly supportive group of people.
‘Saying goodbye to everybody on Sunday was very emotional, bittersweet, but I was so happy more than 150 people turned out to wish me well.’
Father Mike was made honorary canon of Portsmouth Cathedral last year.
He is moving to Lee-on-the-Solent with Lynda, and hopes to become involved with the Watercress Line.
Jane Rice-Oxley, a member of St George’s choir who has known father Mike for 13 years, said: ‘Father Mike has been an incredible priest at our church.
‘He’s so enthusiastic with the young and the old alike, and he’s brought life into the teaching of the church.
‘He loves processions, incense, stories and music – and any excuse for a party!
‘As a congregation we’ve been very lucky to have him at our helm.’
John Hood, a churchwarden at St George’s, said: ‘There are so many good things to say about Mike, he’s very approachable and has been an inspirational and hardworking leader.’