WORSHIPPERS have been shocked by the sudden resignation of the vicar of Christchurch.

Father Chris Mann announced his departure via the social media site Twitter, saying there had been a “breakdown of trust” with the church wardens.

He had been the Priory town's vicar since 2011 and only this March, he had invited parishioners to visit his newly built vicarage in the town.

In a tweet which has since been deleted, Father Mann said: “Owing to a breakdown of trust between the churchwardens and myself, and their lack of willingness to work together, I have had to resign.”

He later added: “I hope to continue to tweet, but not from this parish.”

The Diocese of Winchester issued a statement which was read out in Sunday's service at the Priory. It said: “After several years of very demanding ministry, but also a period in which the parish has seen significant developments in its life, Father Chris has decided to resign and move on to new things.

“We are sad that Chris's ministry in Christchurch is being completed earlier than any of us would have hoped. We appreciate that this has been a difficult time for Chris but we believe his decision to be for the best, both for him and the parish.”

Father Mann was previously chaplain to the Bishop of Chelmsford before moving to Dorset with his wife Heather. The couple have five children.

He was initially given rented accommodation in Southbourne rather than Christchurch's nine-bedroom, grade two listed 19th century vicarage. The diocese decided to build a replacement for the vicarage and Father Mann held an open day at the new building.

The statement from the diocese added: “Chris and Heather move on with our thanks for all they have offered and all that has been achieved in their time in Christchurch, and we commend them to your prayers as they make the transition to a new home over the next month.”

The diocese said an appointment process for a replacement was “currently being confirmed” and that cover had been arranged for all services.