Uckfield’s new rector, the Rev John Wall, comes to the town from ‘the dodgy bit of Brighton’ - the address on a postcard sent to him.
Father John, who takes up his post later this year, is currently rector of St Andrew’s, Moulsecoomb, an area he himself describes as ‘a somewhat notorious parish in Brighton.’
And he has established a reputation as a community champion. He led a campaign to re-open the first urban co-operative pub in the South of England, the Bevendean, known as The Bevy, getting involved in everything from raising funds to decorating. The pub was closed for some time and he helped transform it to include specially created community spaces including a bar, cafe, meeting areas and a training kitchen. He was pretty hands-on in the pub renovation, spending seven hours sanding down the bar. He said: “I told people if anyone spilt beer on the bar there would be hell to pay - and then I was the one who knocked the first pint over it!”
He is currently a school governor, runs a networking local community leaders’ lunch and his spare time activities sum up the saying: ‘If you want something done ask the busiest person in the parish.’ He likes to entertain, go to the theatre, cinema and enjoys art.
Parishioners in Moulescoomb number about 18,000 - a similar population to Holy Cross Church where his ministry will include Holy Cross itself plus St Saviour’s, Uckfield; St Michael’s, Little Horsted and St Margaret’s, Isfield. Father John has been ordained for 27 years and has served in Crawley, Newbury and Brighton where he was chaplain to three recent Brighton mayors and now looks forward to getting involved with Uckfield’s lively civic life. He especially wants a new challenge and wants to be a focal Christian presence in the town. Uckfield has often attracted rectors with a broad hinterland and a wide range of outside interests. Father John, 55 is an art historian and has an MA in medieaval art and iconography. He writes for the Church Times paper, “pretty much the Church of England’s trade magazine.” He’s looking forward to the move and said: “I’m single but come with a happy little Labrador called Sophie who adores being the Rectory dog.” He starts a four month sabbatical after Easter, “Art in Rome and Venice with, I suspect quite a lot of pasta and Veneto wine.”
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