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Departing New Addington vicar on exorcisms and a floral 'spliff'

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EXORCISM requests, a spliff-shaped floral tribute, and a loving, open, laughing community that has "made me the priest I am."

It is these things Father Martin Powell says will stick with him about New Addington, as he moves on to a new role.

The 42-year-old will give his final sermon as vicar at St Edward's Church on Sunday, December 15, before taking up a new priesthood in Chichester.

Reflecting on a decade leading a parish of some 20,000 people, he said: "So many memories...so many fantastic weddings.

"Some beautiful ones and also some were outrageous – shocking pink dresses, that sort of thing.

"I had a floral tribute on a coffin that was in the shape of a four-foot long (marijuana) spliff, so these kind of things will stick with me.

"But actually one of the things that will stick with me the most is the sense of fun that people have here.

"When you come together and have a laugh you really do have a laugh.

"People are open to enjoying each other's company and I shall take that away with me."

Father Powell was just out of the curacy when he started at St Edward's and says he has come into his own as a priest in New Addington.

The dad-of-two said: "I have really learned all the ins and outs of the priesthood here.

"From dealing with people who want exorcisms (it normally ends up as sort of a house blessing) to people on their death beds.

"I am so grateful for people for what they have done for me in terms of my ministry. They have made me the priest I am, really.

"I try to be compassionate, hard-working, realistic and down to earth. Loving, hopefully funny, and just open and accessible."

The very modern minister – known for his blogging, texting and tweeting on spiritual and community matters – has worked to bring more young families into the fold and increase partnerships with other churches in the area.

He has also helped St Edward's buck a national trend for church attendance, with regular Sunday worshippers now numbering about 120 compared to roughly 90 when he started.

That is partly due to changing demographics in the neighbourhood, with people from so-called 'black minority ethnic' communities now making up about 40 per cent of his regular congregants, compared to about 22 per cent when he started.

He said: "I think that is true of New Addington as a whole and in particular true of churches.

"A lot who are new to the country come with a Christian background already so they go through the church.

"That has opened up all sorts of avenues for us in terms of celebrating our differences."

Father Powell's successor will be chosen after a six-month interregnum.

Departing New Addington vicar on exorcisms and a floral 'spliff'


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