A teacher living near Whitchurch has told why he is preparing to become a priest.

James Tout, of Penley, is the director of science at The Marches School in Oswestry and is also training part-time to be an unpaid priest.

A fluent Welsh speaker, Mr Tout is on placement with the Offa Mission Area of churches, based around Ruabon, Chirk and Rhosymedre.

He said: “I have been exploring a call to ordained ministry since I was around 19 years old. It’s hard to describe, and is different for everyone.

“For me it’s like a constant tapping in my mind, every time I think ‘no it can’t be me’ there is a constant unmistakable tapping that seems to drum to the beat of ‘yep, it’s you’.

“I tried to calm the tapping by taking on more responsibility in the churches I have worshiped in – nevertheless none of these worked.”

James is continuing to work full-time as a teacher and fits his priest training around his job.

He added: “I attend eight weekly meetings in each of the three terms in the year and two Saturday sessions.

“With a full-time job and a young family the training is suitable and manageable.”

Figures from the Diocese of St Asaph over the last five years show a 10-fold increase in the number starting ordination training.

In 2012, there were no candidates starting academic training.

Since then numbers have grown steadily and in September 2017, 10 people started courses to become a priest.

At the same time, there has been a rise in the number of people seeking unpaid forms of ministry such as licensed readers, evangelists and lay pastors.

In 2016, the Church in Wales opened a new training centre, St Padarn’s, which allows three routes to ministry training – full-time residential training in Cardiff, part-time training split between Cardiff and the Diocese of St Asaph or full time in the diocese.

Canon Dr Manon Ceridwen James, director of ministry at the Diocese of St Asaph, said: “I’m delighted with the rise in number of candidates starting their ordination training.

“This reflects an increased commitment from people to their faith with better opportunities to study in flexible ways.

“The Diocese of St Asaph has invested heavily in training for both its paid clergy and unpaid lay members or volunteers and this is encouraging people to take theology seriously and explore all sorts of forms of ministry.

“We’ve got people from all backgrounds following their vocation or calling to become a priest or follow other ministries – former police officers, ex teachers, a bin man, nurses, social workers and business men and women.

“The days of the traditional stereotypical male priest are no longer relevant in this diocese.”