ENGLAND’S longest serving vicar, the Rev James 'Jim' Cocke, will conduct one of his last services at All Saints’ in Headington this weekend.

He came to the imposing redbrick church in Lime Walk, 63 years ago and committed himself to serve God, his congregation and the wider community of Headington.

A thanksgiving service will be held tomorrow before Rev Cocke officially retires on March 31.

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Over the past six decades, the vicar has launched a whole series of projects - inside the church building itself much has been done to enhance its beauty, including the installation of five Christopher Webb stained glass windows portraying the lives of saints, and a West Window by John Hayward to commemorate the millennium.

Oxford Mail:

The most recent major project has been the installation of a kitchen at the west end of the church, which was designed to blend in perfectly with the existing architectural features. It is much appreciated by members of the congregation and by visitors.

In 2017 Rev Cocke clocked up 60 years of service when he reached aged 90.

That was six years after he became the longest serving Anglican vicar.

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He was determined to remain modest about his achievement, saying at the time: “Any good which I may have done during the last 60 years has been entirely due to the Grace of God and the generous help which I have received from so many for such a long time.”

He added: “One of the best traditions of Wells, Somerset, Theological College, where I was trained for the Sacred Ministry of the Church, was the cultivation of a willingness to pursue the job without drawing undue attention to self."

Oxford Mail:

Rev Cocke, 93, a father-of-four, said he stayed on as vicar for so long because he loved the job.

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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.

All Saints’ has a flourishing choral tradition, of which Rev Cocke is proud. Over many years the church has hosted a summer music festival with concerts every Wednesday evening in July and August.

The vicar saw these evenings as offering enjoyment and company for those who found it difficult to take a summer holiday.

Oxford Mail:

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.

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This church hall was completed in 1967 and was opened that year by Princess Margaret. It is well used by a wide variety of organisations and Rev Cocke added: “It makes a profit.”

Tomorrow at 11am the congregation of All Saints’ will join Rev Cocke’s family and friends to give thanks for his remarkable ministry.

The service will be followed by a presentation to the vicar, who will soon be moving to Dorset.