Graveyard extension for Sidlesham church

A unique ceremony was held at a church in Sidlesham on Sunday as its new extended graveyard was blessed by the Bishop of Chichester.

A unique ceremony has been held at a church in Sidlesham as its new extended graveyard was blessed by the Bishop of Chichester.

Bishop Dr John Hind was joined by his chaplain Ian Gibson and rural dean Richard Hunt to formally consecrate the churchyard extension at St Mary Our Lady Church.

It cost just a little more than £10,000 to purchase the land. The church secured a grant from Chichester District Council worth £5,000 and the parish council funded the rest.

Sidlesham Parish Council chairman Adrian Harland said: “If the church had not bought more ground the future generations of Sidlesham would not be able to be buried in the parish, they would have to go elsewhere.

“The council agreed it was the right thing to do, so we assisted with the funds in buying the land.”

The church approached Chris Spiby to use some of his land at Chalder Farm to extend its graveyard. The Sidlesham Parochial Church Council put in a planning application to extend the graveyard because it had predicted it could run out of space for burying bodies by 2013.

The church council is the landlord of Mr Spiby’s home. Mr Spiby was approached by Chris Field, who is the Sunday School co-ordinator for the church.

Mr Spiby’s family has always supported St Mary’s, which was built in the early 13th century, and he was happy for the land to be used.

During the ceremony a packed church joined in prayers and hymns led by the bishop and the Sunday school sang to the congregation. After a very thought-provoking sermon from the bishop, he led the congregation out to the new churchyard extension through the frosty graveyard.

The bishop and other clergy then processed around the perimeter of the extension, with the registrar reading out the Sentence of Consecration. This was then duly signed by the bishop.

Following prayers and the sprinkling of the ground with holy water by the bishop, the altar party and congregation returned to the church where they received communion.

The music in the service included an anthem by Orlando Gibbons called, This Is The Record Of John, which was beautifully sung by Barbara Green.

Churchwarden Janet Harland said: “It went well. We paraded around the boundary, the bishop did his thing, all of it was consecrated and then it was back to the church for some mulled wine and refreshments.”

She added: “A huge vote of thanks must go to everyone involved in the acquisition and purchase of this land, including the churchwardens and the parish council, to enable Sidlesham residents to be buried in our own churchyard for the next 100 years.”