New deacons have been ordained for Whitchurch and Overton in a ceremony at Winchester Cathedral.

Nicky Smallwood, 44, will be taking over as the deacon for Whitchurch with Tufton with Litchfield, while Amy Roche, 46, will be the deacon for the Benefice of Overton and Laverstoke with Freefolk with the Benefice of North Waltham, Steventon, Ashe & Deane.

Nicky previously worked as a vet, with her final year of university coinciding with the Foot and Mouth epidemic. She later went on to work in a small animal practice before taking a career break for her young family.

A few years after returning to part-time veterinary work, Nicky started volunteering for Christian charity The Waterfall, which supports women through recovery from addictions.

Nicky said: “Through my experiences, I found that God showed me the importance of coming alongside people during dark and difficult times. I worked with the most amazing and wonderful women and know that my time at Waterfall helped steer me towards ministry.”

Nicky currently works as a part-time Anna Chaplain, who offer spiritual support to older people. Her brother, Joe Sweetnam, was also ordained in the same service, and will be the deacon for Valley Park.

Amy, meanwhile, has worked as a Mission Partner with the Church Mission Society for around 12 years, including seven years in France and four years in Beirut, Lebanon before moving back to the UK in 2018. Amy said that she felt her call to serve God since childhood and says that ordination has felt like a natural progression for her.

Amy said: “I feel very at home in Winchester because here, the whole vision of Church and Mission are integral to one another.”

Deacons are a post within the church taken by trainee priests after completing two to three years of training. They are not allowed to perform sacraments like Holy Communion, but work with the community in a variety of ways. After a year, they will be ordained to the priesthood.

The Right Reverend Dr Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, said: “This has been a challenging time for us all, but I am grateful and delighted to ordain those whom God has called to serve the mission of the Church. This year has shown us the importance of coming together to support one another and serve our communities.

“I have no doubt these gifted and committed individuals will continue to do so and will make known the good news of Jesus’ life-transforming power to people across the Winchester Diocese.”