THERE was a distinctly antipodean flavour to the special service at Northchapel welcoming the new priest in charge.
And it was not surprising as the Rev Peter Hayes, new priest for Ebernoe and Lurgashall as well as Northchapel, is an Australian.
The service, led by the Rt Rev Mark Sowerby, bishop of Horsham, was attended by supporters and relatives from Australia and London as well as those closer to home and included a rendering of Walzing Matilda by organist Madeline Thomas.
A congregation of more than 100 witnessed the licensing of the new priest in charge at St Michael’s Church and seated alongside the Rev Hayes, was a phalanx of his fellow clergy, resplendent in robes.
Behind them were the churchwardens of the three parishes and the massed choir and, in the beautifully-decorated church, the main congregation.
The bishop emphasised the tradition that welcoming the new priest involved, and Mr Hayes spoke warmly of his reception by parishioners, ending his words with a reminder of the result of this winter’s Ashes series.
A reception was held at Northchapel village hall after the service, allowing a more informal introduction of Mr Hayes to villagers from Lurgashall, Northchapel and Ebernoe.
Mr Hayes, 60, was born in Perth, Western Australia. He is a Bachelor of Divinity, gained in 1983. He was Melbourne assistant curate and parish priest in Newcastle, New South Wales, and near Perth, Western Australia, in inner-city, suburban and rural parishes from 1982 to 1991 and chaplain in the Australian Army from 1991 to 2013, ending as colonel, senior chaplain, Middle East.
He has two adult children, a daughter and son, in Australia and his interests include cathedrals, long walks, the arts, good food and wine and, of course, cricket.