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Surprise welcome for new priest
4:30pm Friday 21st September 2012 in News
A PRIEST was in for an almighty surprise when two of his former parishoners flew all the way from America to watch him welcomed into a Benfleet church.
Father Leslie Drake was amazed to discover two of his friends from St Augustine of Canterbury Church in South Carolina – where he used to be the priest – had made the 4,000 mile journey to be part of his “service of institution and induction” at St Mary the Virgin Church.
The induction ceremony marked a new chapter in the 1,000-year-old High Street church.
The ceremony began with a colourful procession of church officials including the Bishop of Chelmsford – the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell – and the Bishop of Richborough, the Rt Rev Norman Banks – making its way from the Moorings next to the Anchor pub, before entering historic St Mary’s.
Churchwardens, members of the congregation and an audience of VIPs including Castle Point mayor Peter Burch and MP Rebecca Harris welcomed Father Drake.
He was then given the keys and a map to the parish before he blessed the holy water and the church bells rang out.
Mr Drake, 65, has spent 30 years serving the church in the States, but has most recently been in charge of UK parishes in Enfield and Wimbledon. He has also worked in Ireland.
He will take his first service at the church on Sunday.