A Priest who had the calling when he was as young as eight has returned to his roots.
Huddersfield-born clergyman, the Rev Paul Witts, has become priest-in-charge at St Barnabas Church, Crosland Moor, and Christ Church, Linthwaite.
Mr Witts, 55, returned to his home town after 12 years as vicar at St Mary the Virgin in South Elmsall, near Pontefract.
His licensing service, conducted by the Bishop of Pontefract, the Rt Rev Tony Robinson, was held on Thursday.
Mr Witts was born in Huddersfield and grew up in the town living in Rawthorpe, Birkby, Lepton and Birchencliffe.
From an early age he knew he wanted to serve God and would tell everyone at school he wanted to be a priest or a vicar.
“I got a variety of reactions to that,” said Mr Witts.
“It was certainly out of the ordinary and a bit odd but I wasn’t bullied over it particularly.”
Mr Witts said he was as young as eight when he had the calling.
“It was like a toothache,” he said. “It was something there, always nagging away though I tried to suppress it from time to time.”
Mr Witts trained as a psychiatric nurse at Storthes Hall Hospital in Kirkburton and worked in Bradford and Sheffield.
He was a lay reader and later became a nurse teacher at the University of Central Lancashire.
Mr Witts’ calling eventually saw him turn towards the church and he attended St Stephen’s theological college in Oxford in 1994.
His first post was as assistant curate at Bamber Bridge, near Preston, in 1996.
He moved to Halifax Parish Church as associate vicar and also worked on a Barnardo’s project as a spiritual advisor on social exclusion, substance abuse and HIV issues.
Mr Witts, who is not married, then became vicar at South Elmsall in 2001.
After 12 years he accepted a new challenge in his hometown.
“The idea of coming back to Huddersfield after 30 years was a bit scary but very inviting,” he said.
“It was scary because the place has changed so much, but I am beginning to feel at home already.”
Mr Witts said his abiding memory of Huddersfield was of trolley buses and clouds of starlings hanging over buildings.
“All the starlings seem to have gone and Huddersfield is more green than I recall. There seems to be more trees. It’s like a garden city almost.”
Mr Witts said there were different challenges in his two new parishes.
“Crosland Moor has a sizeable Muslim community and it is my intention to build on the relationship from an inter-faith perspective,” he said.
“The real challenge, however, is to attract back those whose heritage is a Christian one.
“In Linthwaite there is a more traditional community and in some ways it seems the church has lost touch with modern young people.
“Families still come to us for baptisms and they like the ethos of church schools, but apart from that they only pop back for weddings and funerals.
“Sundays may be people’s only day off in the week and we have to find new ways of connecting.”
Mr Witts replaces the Rev Martin Parrott, who took early retirement due to ill health last October.