Like the new Archbishop of Canterbury, The Rev’d Canon Martin Giles Onions, new Rector of Holy Cross Church, Uckfield has a background in industry.
Born in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, in 1963, he lived in Shrewsbury and was educated at the Priory Grammar School.
He said: “I found I didn’t relate to it terribly well and so left school at 16. I joined the Kenning Motor Group and was apprenticed for four years, training to be a heavy goods vehicle mechanic.”
His mum’s grandfather, Simeon Champkins had been a Strict Baptist minister and young Martin attended the local evangelical Sunday school. When he was ten the family began to worship at St Chad’s, Shrewsbury. He was confirmed at 11, along with, unusually, his mother, brother and sister.
Having been confirmed he was asked to serve at the altar. This meant he attended church every Sunday and was gradually drawn in through various other activities into the life of the church.
Father Martin went on: “I was fortunate to be encouraged, by a young curate, Philip Chester, to explore the richness and diversity of the Church of England.
“At the age of 17 I had a particular experience of God’s grace which inspired me to explore what God was asking of me. At the same time a member of our congregation spoke to me about the possibility of ordination.
“This was encouraged by our curate who introduced me to a scheme for those exploring vocation in Sussex. And so at the end of my apprenticeship I moved down to Sussex, working in the Parish of St Dunstan’s, Mayfield, and earning some money as a house parent at Chailey Heritage. In this time I met Gill, my wife.”
The couple married at St Dunstan’s in 1987 when he went through the Church’s selection process and was accepted, training at Chichester before being ordained deacon in 1988 and serving at Eastbourne Parish Church.
He was ordained priest the following year and completed his Theology MA in 2002.
Father Martin has served at Findon, Eastbourne and Willingdon, as a Bishop’s Adviser for Ministry from 2009 and was made a Canon of Chichester Cathedral and Prebend of Sidlesham in 2012.
Father Martin and Gill have four sons and a grand-daughter. He went on: “We are looking forward to our move to Uckfield and the fresh challenges and opportunities that this will bring.”
His induction is expected in June.