Former Midhurst vicar visits parish

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Midhurst has been revisited by former vicar Andrew Cunnington during a pilgrimage through West Sussex to mark his 25 years as a priest.

Father Andrew Cunnington was vicar of Midhurst and rector of Woolbeding from 1994 until 2006, when he moved to St Matthew’s parish at Redhill.

During his time in Midhurst, he instigated several initiatives including an annual Easter youth pilgrimage and, to some controversy, the re-ordering of the parish church in Church Hill which included replacing a majestic oak front door with glass doors to reveal the interior of the building to passers-by.

He has commemorated his 25 years in the priesthood by walking back from his current parish through the places that have been important to him during that time.

The trek included all the parishes where he has served, and as he walked into Midhurst last Thursday he was met by a quarter peal of bells from the tower of his former church, St Mary Magdalene and St Denys.

Among the ringers were Midhurst Rother College student Harry Carter and teacher Paul Robinson. Fr Andrew’s wife, Alison, is a pastoral leader at the college and he had close contact with students at its predecessor, Midhurst Grammar School, during his years in the town.

His pilgrimage began from St Matthew’s, Redhill, on Monday last week and ended on Saturday at St Symphorian’s, Durrington, which he said he regarded as his ‘home church’.

He was a choirboy there, was married there in 1982 and ordained there in 1986.

Other landmarks he visited along the way were Ifield, where he was curate from 1985-89, and the Church of the Good Shepherd, Haywards Heath, where he was team vicar from 1989-94.

Fr Andrew arrived in Midhurst after walking 14 miles along the South Downs Way, descending into Heyshott and following lanes into the town.

He wrote in his diary for this leg of his pilgrimage: “Leaving from Amberley at 11am, arriving in Midhurst at 5pm approximately.

“We meet at the café down by the river Arun just down from the railway station. South Downs Way again today. No other refreshment places or loos along the way. Again hilly in places, chalky under foot. We descend into Heyshott and come through country lanes into Midhurst.

The following day he walked to Chichester with the cathedral, where he was ordained deacon in 1985, his destination before heading off for his last stop at Durrington.