THE Church of England's new top man in Somerset was well-placed to help take on the Covid pandemic when it emerged.

Downing Street has announced the appointment of the Rt Rev Michael Beasley as the 80th Bishop of Bath and Wells

He has been Bishop of Hertford since 2015 and replaces the Rt Rev Peter Hancock, who retired in May 2021 due to ill health.

Before taking a full-time role in the Church, Bishop Michael was an epidemiologist, a background he was called on to use with the CofE's Covid task force.

He is married to Lizzie, who is from Somerset farming stock. They have two young children.

Bishop Michael said: "I am delighted to be coming to be the Bishop of Bath and Wells and to joining with everyone in the diocese as together we live and tell the story of Jesus.

“We have strong family connections with Somerset and I’m very much looking forward to working alongside its people, communities and churches.

“We have all been through a challenging few years. The Covid pandemic pushed us all apart. Now is the time to come back together. Our churches have an essential role in helping us rebuild communities and in facing the challenges present to us both internationally and at home."

Bishop Michael was brought up in Staffordshire, where he attended a small CofE primary school and a rural church.

He was ordained in 1999 and until his appointment as director of Mission in the Diocese of Oxford in 2010, he combined his scientific work with Christian ministry as a missioner and theological educator.

He has worked with UNICEF, the NHS, the Government and leaders of different faiths to launch which has raised more than £10 million in support of vaccination for low-income countries.

"I thought I'd left science behind, but God never wastes anything, so in the last few years the skills I gained before have been of use to the Church now,” said Bishop Michael.

He spent yesterday (Thursday, April 28) touring the county, visiting children at a school in Bridgwater, farmers in North Newton, Covid projects in Highbridge, meeting students in Weston-super-Mare and discussing support for Ukrainian refugees in Cheddar.

A Bath and Wells spokesperson said: "He is deeply relational, has mission at his heart and is highly respected by clergy and laity in his current role.

"He has offered leadership and vision in St Alban’s and has spoken and worked effectively in the public square, most notably making use of his epidemiologist background over the Covid-19 pandemic.

"He comes from a rural background and brings experience of a wide variety of church traditions and church sizes and much more besides including church planting, pioneering and work with children and young people.”