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Rural Dean retires after 22 years

PUBLISHED: 14:29 12 March 2009 | UPDATED: 10:32 23 August 2010

FAREWELL: Rev Vic Lawrence and his wife Toni who are moving to Eastbourne.

FAREWELL: Rev Vic Lawrence and his wife Toni who are moving to Eastbourne.

A REVEREND, who is due to retire at the end of the month, says it is with great sadness that he is leaving the church after nearly 22 years. Arriving in 1987, Rev Vic Lawrence, rector of St Peter and St Paul Milton, (Milton Parish Church) Church Road,

A REVEREND, who is due to retire at the end of the month, says it is with 'great sadness' that he is leaving the church after nearly 22 years.

Arriving in 1987, Rev Vic Lawrence, rector of St Peter and St Paul Milton, (Milton Parish Church) Church Road, Gravesend, increased membership and oversaw the building of a new parish centre.

He held various roles in Gravesham's church community during his tenure but will retire and move to Eastbourne with his wife Toni on March 31.

In his latest project, Rev Lawrence secured a £95,000 grant from English Heritage towards the £191,000 cost of restoring the main tower and eroded window frames of the 700-year-old building.

He said: "Retirement will be a bitter-sweet experience, great sadness at leaving a church we have been part of for a third of our lives and so many friends made over the years yet also looking forward to the future.

"We've been privileged to make lots of friends here and by ministering in the schools I have been pleased to see young children taking an interest.

"When we arrived there were about 30 to 40, mainly old, parishioners. We now have about 120 attending a regular Sunday service with a membership of about 140 - above the average for the Church of England."

A founder member of Churches Together in Gravesham, for the last four years he has been Rural Dean of Gravesend.

He served as Chaplain to the mayor, the Royal Naval Association, Merchant Navy Association, Royal Engineers and the Royal Air Force Association.

Outreach programmes have also been developed at the church and he was on the governing body of both Holy Trinity School and Gravesend Grammar School.

Rev Lawrence added: "By attracting young families and children with the new facilities the church has grown.

"There was no Sunday school when we arrived and we realised to attract more members we had to expand the building and services.

"In 1992 we opened the parish centre, raising £100.000 form the sale of the former Duck Pond School to G&M Motors and a further £148,000 through fundraising. It was a phenomenal effort by all associated with the church and has proved a massive success."

His wife Toni added: "I've very much enjoyed our time here and the friends we have made will remain friends, but I am looking to moving to the sea and nearer family."

Parishioners are invited to a farewell service of celebration due to take place at the church on Saturday, March 28 from 3pm followed by a reception in the parish centre.

michael.adkins@archant.co.uk

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