Home. A History of St Richard’s Church

(Taken from ‘The Continuing Chain’ - Reflections on the History of St Richard’s Haywards Heath,
 Written By Dudley Lerpinier)

Worship (1935 - 1985)

In the words of one of the prayers used at the consecration service of the newly completed St Richard’s Church building in 1938, the Bishop prayed that “as we have prepared this place for the manifestation of thy love, so may we also build up a spiritual house...”  

Since then, varying traditions and personal preferences have been reflected in the people who have made up the community of St Richard’s.  During a meeting of the PCC in June 1935 an opportunity was given to frame a representation to the Bishop on the subject of the appointment of a new vicar.  It was a period when ‘Anglo-Catholic’ and ‘Evangelical’ had become party labels, signifying not so much different, and complementary, traditions within the Anglican Church, but often sharp division and even conflict.  There is no doubt that, since the time of Fr O’Beirne, St Richard’s had tended to the first of these traditions.  There seemed to be a general conclusion that a young and active man of moderate views, neither ultra Anglo-Catholic nor ultra Evangelical was required.  It seemed in many ways that the appointment of Fr Wylie met such a request.  The new vicar was studiously correct in his attitudes.  He was also a man of great foresight and determination.  It was probably as well that the attention, interest and energies of all were concerned on the project of the building of the new church.

In 1939, the Sung Eucharist was held at 10.15 am and Sung Matins at 11.15 am each being preached a different sermon.  Fr Wylie wrote that “we have two entirely separate services in the morning with, of course, two entirely different congregations”.  The Sung Eucharist was “by far the best attended... When, with the West Gallery full of children, the church was often quite full, a most inspiring sight”.

Fr Wylie left during 1944 to serve in the forces and resigned at the end of the war.  He was succeeded by Fr TR Taggart.  The pattern of services again changed, Sung Matins being at 10 am and Sung Eucharist and Sermon at 10.30 am,  the latter still being the most important service.  Celebrations were now being held on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and the Blessed Sacrament was reserved continually.  In May of 1953, following Fr Taggarts resignation, a meeting of the PCC had agreed that a priest was required who should ‘carry on the Anglo-Catholic traditions of the parish.  

Fr Leonard Richardson was appointed; his sense of humour was soon apparent, as was his affection for the people of St Richard’s and a deep concern for their spiritual welfare.  During 1965 the PCC felt that there was a strong need for an assistant priest and a working party was set up to look into this.  As a result, in 1968, Fr Richard Clarke arrived.  At this time the Sunday pattern of services was Holy Communion at 8 am and at 9.15 am (with hymns) and 10.30 am Sung Eucharist.  Following Fr Richardson's move to Holy Rood Convent, Lindfield, in January 1971, the PCC sent representation to the Bishop, mentioning the long Catholic tradition of the parish and stating that ‘a young, energetic and experienced vicar, who will uphold the Catholic tradition’ was required.  Fr Edwards was soon appointed by the Bishop.  

In April, 1972, it was agreed that occasionally, a service should be held at 10 am which would combine the 9.15 am Communion and 10.30 am Eucharist.  During 1974, Fr Tony Treen arrived as assistant priest on Fr Clarke’s departure.  

In 1976, divergence arose over the question of combining the Parish Communion and Sung Eucharist and, following a parish-wide questionnaire, a majority showed a preference in favour of a 10 am service every Sunday.  Fr Treen left in May 1977 and St Richard’s was left without a dedicated full-time curate for some years.

Throughout the ‘seventies, leading up to the publication of the ‘1980 Alternative Service Book’, was a time of some disturbance and even distress, due to the moves towards new services and change in the traditional language.  There was, at this time, a widespread shift in practice and attitudes affecting the whole of the Western Church, including the Roman Catholic.  Such changes occurred at St Richard’s, as with the discussion and controversy over ‘high’ and ‘low' church.  However, the prime importance was the weekly and daily offering of worship.  “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”.