Uckfield remembers Father Martin Onions

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SUS-150630-133332001

A Eucharist of Requiem and thanksgiving for the life and ministry of Father Martin Onions, Rector of Uckfield was held at Holy Cross Church, Uckfield on Friday, June 26.

The Bishop of Chichester, The Rt Rev Dr Martin Warner presided and Bishop Nicholas Reade (former Bishop to Blackburn) preached at the service.

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Bishop Martin Warner led the service in memory of Father Martin who died suddenly on the May 22.

More than 50 clergy from across the Diocese were joined by a large congregation comprising people from Uckfield but also across Sussex and the other parishes in which he had served.

As well as the Bishop of Chichester, other clergy present included the Bishop of Horsham, Bishop Emeritus of Chichester, Dean Stephen Wayne, and several Archdeacons.

The church was full and many people had to sit out outside in and around the churchyard where the service was relayed over speakers.

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The post Communion hymn was an adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber tune – ‘Love Changes Everything.’

Father Martin Onions had changed the words slightly as a parish mission and started off with the line ‘Christ, Christ changes everything.’

People taking part said it was a very moving moment.

For the first time Uckfield Town Council opened Luxford Field as a overflow car park and coaches bought people to the church from across the county and beyond.

After the Eucharist, the clergy and congregation were invited to the Belmont Centre for refreshments.

Like the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Rev’d Canon Martin Giles Onions has a background in industry. He brought an understanding of the outside world to his ministry.

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 acting as a house parent at Chailey Heritage. In this time I met Gill, my wife.”

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