Belfast Church of Ireland Dean the Rev Dr Houston McKelvey yesterday announced his retirement, pledging to continue a public role in Northern Ireland society.
Dr McKelvey told his congregation in St Anne's Cathedral at morning service that he would stand down next April.
He said he had already intimated his intentions to the Bishop of Connor the Rev Alan Abernethy. The Dean expressed his thanks for the wholehearted support which he had received from his clerical colleagues at the cathedral and the members of the St Anne's community and the Connor diocese during almost 10 years of ministry.
"I will be standing aside from the pastoral and administrative work at the cathedral where I have been for the past decade, but I hope to remain active in the church and in wider civic society," he said.
During his time at St Anne's Cathedral, the Spire of Hope was erected there, the positions of ecumenical canons were established and the partnership with St Peter's Roman Catholic Cathedral in west Belfast strengthened.
The Dean will commence his 10th annual pre-Christmas sit-out for charities on the steps of St Anne's Cathedral in Donegall Street with members of the Cathedral Chapter on Thursday, December 18. This will last until Christmas Eve.
Dr McKelvey, in his late sixties, succeeded the Rev Jack Shearer as Dean and, in the annual 'Black Santa' sit-outs, he raised many hundreds of pounds for various local and overseas charities.
Last year, he received the OBE from the Queen for this work.
Prior to his appointment, Dean McKelvey, from Muckamore in Antrim, was for 20 years secretary to the Church of Ireland's general synod board of education and the Church's education spokesman.
Before that he was rector of St Hila's at Seymour Hill in Dunmurry.
The Dean, a regular News Letter pulpit columnist, has also been closely identifed with the armed services, acting as a chaplain to the Territorial Army.
During his ministry, he has been ably supported by his wife Roberta, who is a central trustee of the Mothers' Union within the Anglican Communion.
Belfast Cathedral website