More than just a church

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St Mary's - packed with stalls, people and conversations - pre covid in December 2019.

Covid has had an impact on every aspect of Rye’s life with St Mary’s church at the top of the hill falling very quiet despite its usual menu of weddings, concerts, fairs and tourists in addition to the Sunday and weekday services.

And the past months will be recalled at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting on Sunday May 22 at 11:30am where the church wardens will be elected, and others will be confirmed in the various posts that such an old and much-visited church requires.

A report of last year’s meeting (amongst the many reports circulated before Sunday’s meeting) records the retirement of St Mary’s Rector, the Rev Canon David Frost, and this year’s meeting will see a new Rector in charge, the Rev Paul White – who arrived in November last year.

The last two years were difficult ones for the church, as it was for many, because Covid restrictions meant fewer weddings, visitors and events, and reduced income was only partially offset by reduced expenditure.

A painful time

And a comment from churchwarden Graham Hurley probably sums up the last two years very well: “It was a painful time in so many aspects of life and some of us have been very deeply affected.”

However, tourists are now returning in force and the flower displays no longer include artificial flowers – which happened at one stage in the Covid crisis. The Jazz Festival was cancelled last year and the Rye Arts Festival also had to cut back on what it did, both of which use the church as a venue for events.

This Sunday, however, sees a new start with a new Rector, as church members meet to both look back and look forward to a full year of activities – including weddings, tourists, concerts and civic ceremonies – as Rye’s church, like the town, comes back to life to serve both residents and visitors.

Image Credits: Kevin McCarthy .

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