The Right Reverend Dr Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester, came to celebrate and preach at Eucharist on Sunday morning 7 June at St Wilfrid’s Church, Haywards Heath, to launch four months of 150th anniversary events at the Church.
He then joined the Rector, the Reverend Ray Smith, and parishioners at a sumptuous Bring and Share Lunch in the Centenary Hall, where he was presented with the first bottles of a special anniversary brew of the new St Wilfrid’s Ale.
The Bishop told a large congregation how, in many ways, St Wilfrid’s Church today has similar opportunities and challenges to what it had had in Victorian times.
He noted, though, that the technological novelty that his predecessor at the Church’s consecration on 5 June 1865, Bishop Ashurst Gilbert (1842-1970), was using was the new railway network that was bringing towns like Haywards Heath into existence. That breakthrough had now been overshadowed by the rapid social media transmission of the church’s unchanged messages of transformational love and the unity of a family of fellowship with Jesus Christ, sharing meals that unite heaven and earth in awe and joy as a Eucharistic community.
These were still the messages that the church shares with the people of Haywards Heath today. That, he said, was what St Wilfrid’s Church was, and is, for.
The Bishop also raised a few smiles - when he wondered whether Bishop Ashurst Gilbert might have been “grumpier” if he had been a 2015 rail traveller!
A picture can tell several stories. In the attached group photograph, taken just after the 10.30am Eucharist: Bishop Martin is flanked by two of the youngest parishioners at St Wilfrid’s Church, both aged seven months and baptized at the church earlier this year. Benjamin Lefeaux (baptized in February) is in the arms of the Rector, the Reverend Ray Smith, and to the Bishop’s left is Isabelle Arnold (baptized in May). The lady holding Isabelle is Mrs Pamela Cripps, who on 1 June this year became the new Headteacher of St Wilfrid’s CE Primary School in Eastern Road, Haywards Heath (the Reverend Ray Smith is a governor.)
On Pamela’s left is Miss Eileen Willis, who was baptized some 95 years before Benjamin and Isabelle. She has been attending St Wilfrid’s Church since the day after she moved to Haywards Heath 22 years ago. Eileen is still an active participant in one of the Church’s house study groups, which meets in Bolnore Village, the newest part of St Wilfrid’s parish.
Report contributed. Picture by Melvyn Walmsley, Fresh Air Photography: firstname.lastname@example.org