A POPULAR Hampshire vicar will hold his last service tomorrow before he takes a break from the church.

Scores of locals are expected to descend on Romsey Abbey at 10am for the vicar of Romsey, Rev Canon Tim Sledge's last sermon.

The vicar was expected to leave the market town to become the new Dean of Peterborough.

But last month, after ten years in the job, Canon Sledge has announced he is instead going to take a break from the church, citing personal health grounds.

He was set to become the new Peterborough Dean on October 15, having served in Romsey since 2008.

However, he said: “I have informed Bishop Donald (Allister) that I have decided to take a break from my ministry at this time on personal health grounds, and as such I have withdrawn from the role I had accepted at Peterborough Cathedral.

“I am very grateful to Bishop Donald for his understanding in the matter, and to Bishop Tim (Dakin) for his ongoing support.”

Romsey Abbey is calling on residents to join him for his final service at at 10am on Sunday September 17.

During his time at Romsey Abbey, Canon Sledge led a seven-year development plan.

This focused on growing the church’s work with young families and on discipleship, spirituality, community work and the creative use of buildings and heritage.

He also worked with the local authority and other partners in Romsey to set up a consortium to promote the town as a visitor destination.

This has resulted in a 15 per cent increase in visitor numbers.

Tim has established a link between the Abbey and the Anglican Province of Burundi and has made several visits there with members of the congregation.

He is Chaplain to the Mayors of Romsey and Test Valley, and to the Scouts and the Royal British Legion.

He is also a co-founder of Triangulate, a local mental health charity, and Romsey Abbey is currently the only parish church in the country to be Mindful Employer.

Canon Sledge was appointed Area Dean of Romsey in 2013 and a non-residentiary Canon of Winchester Cathedral in 2014.