Jazzy chaplain hits the right notes in Harting parish area

Rev Mark Morton who has taken over as rector of the Benefice of Harting, Elsted and Treyford-cum-Didling
Rev Mark Morton who has taken over as rector of the Benefice of Harting, Elsted and Treyford-cum-Didling

A chaplain with a taste for jazz and whodunnits will be taking up the reins of a new parish.

Reverend Mark Morton was inducted as the new rector of the Benefice of Harting, Elsted and Treyford-cum-Didling at a special service held at St Mary and St Gabriel Church in South Harting.

The service was conducted by the Bishop of Horsham, the Right Reverend Mark Sowerby.

This induction brings to an end the 16-month vacancy left by Rev Martin Lane who is now based in Bosham.

Chaplain with the British army for 16 years, Rev Morton, 53, was previously in charge of two Royal Artillery regiments on Thorney Island near Emsworth.

He has been married to Sharron for 31 years, who is a deputy headteacher at a primary school near Andover. They have a daughter, Esther, aged 23, who is finishing a masters degree in history at the University of Kent.

He was ordained at Peterborough in 1993 and for a time was senior chaplain of 102 Logistic Brigade at Gutersloh in Germany.

Rev Morton said he had been thinking of returning to civilian ministry when the benefice vacancy arose.

“Obviously, the beautiful location was a factor and three lovely church buildings. Spiritually and theologically, I was drawn by the balance between community engagement and the fostering and deepening of people’s personal faith.

“I am consciously neither high nor low. Over the years I have worked alongside, and shared services with, priests and ministers of very different traditions. What is important to me is that worship is ‘done’ well.”

Born in Brighton, Rev Morton spent most of his childhood in nearby Portslade. His father worked for British Rail, managing the enquiry office at Brighton station and after attending Hove County Grammar School Rev Morton studied politics at Swansea University.

He then entered the financial world, which included working as a senior investment manager with a firm of stockbrokers in Peterborough.

He trained for the priesthood at Ridley Hall, Cambridge and after ordination served his curacy at Daventry Parish Church. Rev Morton has a wide range of interests, including reading and music.

“I always have several books on the go,” he said. “Aside from theological tomes, I enjoy thrillers. I enjoy crime programmes and whodunnits on TV. Also, to keep my little grey cells working, I am starting to brush up on my French.

“A bit more actively, I like the fresh air and am really looking forward to walking on the Downs. Sharron and I have two dogs, and I’m sure they’ll enjoy it too.”

Looking ahead to his new post Rev Morton said: “Sharron and I are both looking forward to being part of the benefice and the local community, and getting to know you all. Please pray for us as we prepare to move.”