Parishioners gagged by Hellingly church leaders

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Parishioners in Hellingly concerned about their absent vicar have been ‘gagged’ by the church to stop them discussing the matter.

Reverend Charlie Hill, the vicar for St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church in Hellingly, has been withdrawn from his duties for more than two years. Back in April this year, the Herald reported that parishioners were asking questions about when he would return.

The Herald understands the reverend is on long-term sick leave and earlier this year the diocese said he had been withdrawn for ‘personal reasons’ and they asked his privacy be respected.

However, this did not stop talk among church-goers in Hellingly and now church leaders have published a newsletter which tells parishioners they must not longer discuss the matter – not even in private.

The ‘moratorium’ laid out in the Parish Particles for Hellingly newsletter was also read out in church to the congregation. In it the archdeacon and Bishop Martin say ‘simple steps’ need to be taken.

It reads, “The Incumbent, the Revd Charlie Hill, the churchwardens, the members of the PCC and all who look to the parish church as their spiritual home, should institute a self-imposed moratorium for six months, starting from this Sunday, from any further discussion, private or public, about the proposed appointment of a new director of music/organist or any related matter.”

Roger Paine, who attends the church, said, “I consider this edict to be a clumsy and arrogant attempt to suppress free speech and akin to a gagging order on parishioners. Worthy of a totalitarian regime not a democracy.”

He said many other church-goers were also ‘enraged’ and had put their views in writing.