AFTER 12 years serving as a minister for Abingdon Baptist Church David Fleming is moving Luton.

While Abingdon has a population of under 30,000, Luton in Bedfordshire is about 10 times the size, with an estimated population of 330,000.

The Rev Fleming is leaving the baptist church in Ock Street on August 13 to seek a new challenge. His successor has not yet been announced.

The 50-year-old has been living in Abingdon with his wife Beth, a former Vale of White Horse district councillor, and their children Sarah, 22, James, 21, Callum, 17, and nine-year-old Andrew.

Mr Fleming takes up his new post at Limbury Baptist Church at the beginning of September.

He said: “Luton is 10 times the size of Abingdon and ethnically very diverse.

“The country is going through a tough time at the moment and Luton is a post-industrial town where both the car industry and hat-making have declined.

“The church I am moving to is just north of central Luton and it’s in a very urban area – it will be a very different church to the one I have been working in.

“Luton Airport is the largest private sector employer of people.”

Mr Fleming cited the establishment of a street pastors’ scheme for Abingdon as a major achievement.He himself has stood on the town’s streets during the early hours at the weekend to make sure night-time drinkers get home safely.

He added: “I hope Abingdon Baptist Church is in a better place than it was 12 years ago – certainly the congregations have stayed pretty stable.

“The churches in Abingdon have always worked very well together and that’s one of the things that attracted me to the town in the first place.”

Before he came to Abingdon, Mr Fleming was based at Frindsbury Baptist Church in Strood, Kent, and he completed his training for the ministry at Regent’s Park College in Oxford from 1992 to 1995.

Before that he worked for churches in Huddersfield and Sheffield.

“I will miss the closeness of the community in Abingdon,” said Mr Fleming. “After 12 years I can’t walk around Tesco without stopping for a conversation with people I know and I’m not sure that I will get that in Luton.

“I’ve always believed churches should be involved in their community and 35 Ock Street, a community café run by volunteers, is a good example of that.”

During his time in Abingdon Mr Fleming was also a governor at Thameside Primary School.

Regional Baptist Church minister Colin Norris said: “David is a thoughtful pastor with a keen desire to help people beyond the local church connect with the Christian faith.

“One of his farewell dos will be in the King’s Head and Bell pub.”