A PACKED Oldham Parish Church witnessed a very special person bestowed with a truly deserving historic honour.

Around 100 people from organisations across the borough, civic dignitaries, family and friends watched as the Rev Jean Hurlston was commissioned by the Bishop of Middleton, the Rt Rev Mark Davies, as the first female Borough Dean of Oldham.

Dean Jean - as she is now known - is the only the second person to have the role, following in the footsteps of the Rev Tony Grant.

But the position has now taken on new significance and a greater profile as the Church of England aims to forge stronger links with the wider community.

The Street Angels founder and Oldham Parish Church associate priest will develop wider church links between civic, health and business and she says this was reflected by the people who participated in the ceremony.

Deputy mayor Cllr Javid Iqbal welcomed her to her new role, stressing the importance of people working together to benefit the people of Oldham.

Chief Insp Umer Khan, of Greater Manchester Police spoke of Jean’s “track record of working alongside people of other faiths”.

There were members of the congregation from Christ Church, in Ashton, which was where Jean’s ministry began.

The Archdeacon of Rochdale, the Rev Cherry Vann formally presented Jean to the Bishop of Middleton who conducted the ceremony.

There were also representatives from a number of organisations she volunteers for in Oldham including the award-winning Street Angels, the night economy project she co-ordinates.

In a humorous and light-hearted speech Jean gave a moving tribute to her family for their support particularly husband David who, she revealed, has brought her breakfast in bed every day throughout their 40 years of marriage!

“This emphasises the importance of team work and as Borough Dean of Oldham I shall be very much a team player” she said.

“I am thrilled to take on the new role and honoured to serve my community in this way.”