‘Space vicar’ blasts off into retirement after 33 years

Rev Ken Clapham with Winmarleigh school head teacher David Adams in 2004 when Rev Clapham gave a talk at the school about space travel.
Rev Ken Clapham with Winmarleigh school head teacher David Adams in 2004 when Rev Clapham gave a talk at the school about space travel.
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The Bishop of the Moon is retiring but he says his mission will continue.

Space-loving vicar Ken Clapham has made a giant leap of a decision to end his ministry after 33 years.

Rev Clapham, known for his talks in schools on space travel and his links to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in America, began at St Cuthbert’s Church in Over Kellet in 1983.

During his tenure he welcomed two of the astronauts who landed on the moon to his village – James Irwin and Charles Duke – and also met Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon in 1969.

Rev Clapham, nicknamed ‘The Bishop of the Moon’, first got involved with the NASA space programme in 1987 when he wrote to the late Col James Irwin – the eighth man to walk on the moon – to invite him to Over Kellet to speak to the children at Wilsons Endowed CE school as part of their space project.

Rev Clapham and his wife Sue, a former nurse, then went to NASA in 1988 and he has been back a number of times since, on one occasion preaching to over 2,000 astronauts, scientists and their families at the Nassau Bay Baptist Church in Houston.

Born in Toxteth, Liverpool, Rev Clapham started his working life in sales and later in income tax before being ordained in the clergy at Liverpool Cathedral in July 1978, the same month he married Sue.

His final service was on July 10 and he will officially finish on July 31. The Claphams will live in Bare, Morecambe, and he says he will still be available for school talks on space.

Rev Clapham also hopes to achieve his longtime ambition of actually going into space himself.

“I did suggest to NASA that I become the chaplain on the International Space Station,” he said. “If that chance comes around again I would definitely have another shot at it.”

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale and chairman of the Parliamentary Space Committee, spoke at Rev Clapham’s retirement service.

“The sheer number of people who attended St Cuthbert’s on Sunday to celebrate with Ken and Sue were a testament to how well thought of they are in the community,” said Mr Morris.

“I know that for Rev Ken retirement won’t mean stopping entirely and he will still be carrying on his work educating children about space and his time at NASA preaching to astronauts. I very much hope that he will still go by his well-known nickname the ‘Bishop of the Moon’.”