Chelmsford Cathedral Chelmsford Cathedral

The Rev Canon Dr Jessica Martin to be the next Dean of Chelmsford

28 June 2024

The Bishop of Chelmsford has announced that the next Dean of Chelmsford will be the Rev Canon Dr Jessica Martin.  

Bishop Guli with the Rev Canon Dr Jessica Martin

Jessica currently serves as Residentiary Canon at Ely Cathedral and during 2024 has served as one of two theological advisers to the bishops of the Church of England.  

Speaking about her appointment Canon Jessica said: 

“I’m filled with excitement at the prospect of coming to be part of the Cathedral community in Chelmsford.  I hope too to play a focussed and enthusiastic part in serving the city, county and wider diocese. These are rich and diverse overlapping communities and I am very eager to find how I may serve them. I look forward to becoming part of the steady foundation of prayer, praise and worship that the Cathedral represents and maintains, and to all that grows out from that in Christian service.  There are relationships to make and to deepen, and a compelling vision that waits for us to discover and bring to fruition together - for which I know excellent work has already begun.  

“As I prepare to move to Chelmsford shortly after Christmas, along with my husband Francis Spufford and my younger daughter, I will be praying steadily for you all. I ask that you will pray for me too, that I may by the grace of God serve you well; and that, creatively and joyfully, we may make something beautiful of this new chapter in the life of Chelmsford Cathedral.” 

The Right Reverend Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, the Bishop of Chelmsford said:  

“I am delighted that God has called Jessica to be the next Dean of Chelmsford.  She brings extensive experience of Cathedral ministry as well as great wisdom and many skills. Her appointment is good news for the Cathedral and the wider diocese and I am very much looking forward to working with her when she joins us in January.  

“I also want to take this opportunity to thank and pay tribute to the Very Rev Paul Kennington who, as interim Dean, has made an outstanding contribution to the life of the Cathedral and our diocese and has graciously agreed to stay on in post until nearer the time of Jessica’s arrival. Details of his leaving service, expected to take place in December, will be shared in due course.” 

The interim Dean of Chelmsford, the Very Rev Paul Kennington said: 

“I am so delighted that Jessica has been appointed to be the next Dean of Chelmsford.  She brings with her not only a wealth of cathedral knowledge and understanding, but also a nationally valued theological acumen and a deep pastoral heart with a longing for sharing the Gospel.  I wish her and Francis all the very best for their transition over the coming months into the life of this Cathedral. 

“I am sorry not to be with you today for this wonderful occasion.   I have a long-standing meeting with senior clergy from the Episcopal Church in the North of England.  I have enjoyed my 16 months so far at Chelmsford Cathedral.  It is an inspiring place with a dedicated and committed Christian Community which is privileged to play its role in the life of the diocese, city, County and East London.” 

The announcement of Canon Jessica’s appointment was made at Chelmsford Cathedral this morning. Jessica will spend today meeting people from the Cathedral community, from churches across Chelmsford Diocese and local civic leaders. She will also be visiting the Chelmsford Cathedral School to meet with pupils and staff. 

The announcement in pictures

About Jessica Martin

Jessica Martin grew up in the Surrey commuter town of Woking.  She studied literature at university, which she later taught at Trinity College in Cambridge.  Following her ordination in 2004 she served as a priest alongside her life as a lecturer, until 2010 when she became the vicar of three country parishes in South Cambridgeshire. Her southern most church was just two hundred yards away from the Essex border.  Gradually taking on other responsibilities, Jessica served on the Bishop of Ely’s senior staff and contributed to the Church of England’s ongoing reflections on sexuality.  Since 2016, she has been a Canon of Ely Cathedral, with special responsibility for learning.  She has written two religious books (as well as some academic ones): Holiness and Desire, which is about sacred and profane loves and how they fit together and which was longlisted for the Michael Ramsey Prize, and The Eucharist in Four Dimensions, about the way that Holy Communion uses place and space and time.  During 2024 she has been one of the two theological advisers to the bishops of the Church of England.  She plays the oboe and the piano, and is married to the writer Francis Spufford. She has two daughters, Stella and Theodora.   

The Rev Canon Dr Jessica Martin will begin her ministry as Dean of Chelmsford in January 2025.  

The Rev Canon Dr Jessica Martin’s video message 

Canon Jessica recorded a message for the cathedral community and diocese ahead of this morning’s announcement that she will be the next Dean of Chelmsford.