A SPACE-loving vicar has ended his 33 years ministry at a north Lancashire church and embarked on a new adventure - retirement.

The Rev Ken Clapham, of St Cuthbert's Parish Church, Over Kellet, near Carnforth, said: “I rather call it refirement even though a lot of people get it wrong because there is really no retirement from Christian ministering.”

Mr Clapham, nicknamed ‘Bishop of the Moon’ by American schoolchildren, is well-known for his love of space and has hosted visits to his church from American astronauts, including tenth man on the Moon Charlie Duke.

He has also given talks about space travel and his links to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in schools both in the UK and the USA.

Ignition for his interest in space was given lift off when he invited the late Col James Irwin, the eighth man to walk on the moon, to speak to pupils of the village's Wilsons Endowed CE School back in 1987.

"At the time I had no interest in space,” said Mr Clapham. “I was fascinated by their (astronauts) faith. People often say that you can’t be a Christian as well as a scientist. These astronauts are top scientists, as well as Christians.”

After this initial contact Mr Clapham's interest went into orbit. He and his wife Sue then went on to visit NASA in 1988 and he has been back multiple times since.

Mr Clapham’s close relationship with space enthusiasts across the pond was reflected at his final service which featured greetings from former NASA employees. Also in attendance was Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris.

The space talks will continue during Mr Clapham’s retirement. He has just returned from lecturing on a cruiser in Norway, where he exhibited several space items including food and a flag that had been in space.

“The parish never suffered because of my involvement with the space programme," he said. "The parish always came first. I had my mobile as well as a pager and people could call me day or night.”

Mr Clapham, originally from Toxteth in Liverpool, was called to the Christian faith at the age of 18 after growing up in a family that never went to church.

“At the time I was wondering what life was all about," he said. "I asked God if he had a plan for me to show it to me. When I went to work that Monday my manager said: ‘You have changed.’”

He was ordained at Liverpool Cathedral in July 1978 and arrived at Over Kellet in 1983.

“The church was looking for a chaplain," he said. "My wife and I were very happy where we were in Yorkshire and were not looking to move. They took us around the church and both of us knew then that this was the right place to be.”