England’s longest serving vicar set to retire

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England’s longest-serving vicar has conducted one of his last services before he prepares to retire and move to Dorset.

The Revd James Cocke outside All Saints’ Headington. Photo: The Oxford Mail/Ed Nix

The thanksgiving service on Sunday (January 26) celebrated the ministry of the Revd Jim Cocke, who has been the vicar of All Saints’ in Headington, Oxford, for 63 years.

In 2017 Jim clocked up 60 years of service when he reached aged 90, six years after he became the longest-serving Anglican vicar.

Rev Cocke, 93, a father-of-four, said he stayed on as vicar for so long because he loved the job. His wife Margaret died in 2008 aged 82.

In 1986 the musical aspect of worship at All Saints’ was boosted by the installation of the excellent organ which had previously been in SS Philip and James Church in Woodstock Road.

The Revd Jim Cocke and the Very Revd Martyn Percy with choir members past and present. Photo: Hilary Hardy.

The Revd Jim Cocke and the Very Revd Martyn Percy with choir members past and present. Photo: Hilary Hardy.

Over his years in Headington, Jim has led more than 11,000 services and says he has never missed taking one on a Sunday. “I’ve enjoyed helping those in need and developing music here in the church,” says Jim.

All Saints’ has a flourishing choral tradition and a summer music festival with concerts every Wednesday evening in July and August.

For people in Headington, one of the most significant achievements of Rev Cocke’s ministry is the building of All Saints’ Church House in New High Street. The church hall was completed in 1967 and opened by Princess Margaret.

The Dean of Christ Church, the Very Rev. Martyn Percy, spoke at Jim’s thanksgiving service. Martyn said: “He’s an institution, greatly cherished by a great number of people in the city. He has become a legend in his own lifetime. He is an extraordinary man, much-loved, and we will miss him. We wish him well in his retirement.”

Read the Oxford Mail’s story on Jim’s retirement.