Hellingly parishioner asks ‘where is vicar?’

St Peter and St Paul Church, Hellingly
St Peter and St Paul Church, Hellingly

Churchgoers in Hellingly keen to see the return of their parish vicar are facing a further wait.

Reverend Charlie Hill, the vicar for St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church in Hellingly, has been withdrawn from his duties for around two years.

A parishioner contacted the Gazette to raise his concerns about the whereabouts of Rev. Hill.

Hellingly resident Roger Paine has asked ‘where is the vicar of Hellingly?’ but says he has not received any firm answers.

He said, “Except for a short appearance of three months last summer he has been missing from parish duties for the best part of two years.

“This has included the most important festivals in the Christian year, Christmas and Easter.

“For a time it was understood he was unwell, then on sabbatical, then on holiday.”

The Gazette understands Reverend Charlie Hill is off on long-term sick leave.

But Mr Paine says he is not alone in asking questions and explained that dozens of other parishioners have been wondering where their priest is and when he will return.

Mr Paine has made enquiries with the Bishop of Chichester and the Archdeacon of Lewes and Hastings.

He said, “In answer to my repeated question, Where is the vicar?, and others about whether he is still being paid, the Archdeacon informed me ‘..it is not for you to demand answers; appropriate information is shared with the churchwardens and it is for them to communicate with parishioners’.

“Another example of attempting to pass the buck.

“But when I have asked the churchwardens, I have been met with raised eyebrows and shrugged shoulders.

“If they do know, which I doubt, they are certainly not telling anyone.

“I have also made known to the Archdeacon that, contrary to his view, it is entirely proper that I should demand answers.”

Both a spokesperson from the parish and a spokesperson from the Church of England have asked that Reverend Charlie Hill’s privacy is respected while he is off.

A spokesperson from the Diocese of Chichester said, “Revd Charlie Hill, parish priest of Hellingly and Upper Dicker churches, has temporarily withdrawn from ministry for personal reasons and we ask that privacy is respected during this time.

“He has the full support of the diocese.

“The Rev Tony Fiddian-Green has been appointed to the parish to take services and undertake the responsibilities of the parish priest until Charlie Hill’s return.”

Services at St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church in Hellingly continue as normal despite Reverend Charlie Hill’s absence.