Trio quit church - but it’s ‘business as usual’

Father Neil Chatfield
Father Neil Chatfield

AN Eastbourne congregation has been rocked after its priest quit and two churchwardens stood down.

Christ Church, the parish church of Seaside and Roselands, is being run by the parochial church council with support from the curate and three retired priests after Father Neil Chatfield (pictured) announced his resignation from the Anglican church to seek to be ordained in the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time church wardens Sheila Hitchisson and Andrew Leach also stood down.

In a statement to parishioners Father Neil said he found it harder to lead the Anglican congregation because of recent decisions made by the Church of England and intended to formally pursue membership of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, a personal ordinariate of the Roman Catholic Church.

He said, “This decision has been one of the most difficult to make. It has been made all the harder by the thought of leaving behind the community it has been a privilege to serve these near 11 years. The decision has not been motivated by the feeling I am not wanted - far from it.

“Alongside this growing sense of unease at the direction of the Church of England, came the offer of Pope Benedict, at the request of many Anglicans, in forming the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

“Through the long process of prayer and contemplation, there has been the strong, irresistible leading of the Holy Spirit. Whatever the difficulties, and there are many, in going and whatever the temptations, and there are many, in staying, I dare not resist the call of God.”

In a joint statement churchwardens Andrew Leach and Sheila Hitchisson said they too had become increasingly concerned with the direction the Church of England was taking and were joining the Ordinariate.

The Christ Church Parochial Church Council also released a statement to reassure the congregation.

The statement said, “The PCC is determined to enable the congregation to continue its worship at Christ Church and to ensure the good work of this church family, in relation to our support for individuals, families, children, young people and Oasis, is maintained.”