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Laughter and tears for Uckfield clergyman 'Bishop Bill'
3:20pm Monday 8th October 2012 in News
There was laughter mixed with tears at a thanksgiving service for the life of Canon Bill Peters at Holy Cross Church in Uckfield.
Long-standing friend the Rev Chris Howarth conducted the ceremony and lifted the mood when he reminded everybody what Canon Peters’ first words would have been if he was welcoming the congregation: “My dears …”
There were references to how a previous Bishop of Lewes described him as Bishop Bill of Uckfield and to how another bishop talked about a football team of curates in Uckfield – there were 11 of them at one stage.
The Rev Canon Ian Gibson, one of those curates and now Episcopal Vicar for Ministry, recalled an Evensong when it took most of the first hymn for the choir and clergy to process to the altar.
He said this was made even more memorable because of a message passed from the end of the procession to the front “Who is preaching tonight?” only for it to be returned with the answer “You are, Rector”.
Canon Peters then asked: “Have I preached on St Thomas?” He would be told: “Yes, last week”.
Everybody was agreed on the kind of man Bill Peters was: “Loving and caring, gentle,” said his nephew Michael Bridal who added: “I can never ever remember Bill being angry.”
Mr Howarth said: “He was my mentor, my friend who encouraged me to be ordained as a priest. He was always approachable and welcoming.”
There were many references to the way Canon Peters led by example. Canon Gibson said many would remember Canon Peters’ regular Saturday journey starting at Thurston’s the butchers, supposedly to order meat, but really to get a cup of coffee. He would then go down the High Street and back up again visiting shops, talking to, and being stopped by, parishioners wanting advice or counsel, or just a chat.
The priest’s sporting prowess was highlighted. He was a Cambridge Blue for soccer, played in the Brighton and Hove Albion team in the early days – and remained a life-long supporter of the club – and was a skilled cricketer.
His dedication on the battlefield as a wartime Army chaplain was mentioned along with his chaplaincy at Brighton College before he moved to Uckfield as rector.
He was chaplain at Uckfield Cottage Hospital and then Uckfield Community Hospital, chaplain of Sussex bonfire societies and he carried on ministering to people in and around Uckfield and in Buxted, long after his retirement.
There was a private family service at Brighton Crematorium this week with committal taking place before the thanksgiving service at Holy Cross Church, Uckfield.
On Wednesday evening a guard of honour comprising members of the Uckfield Bonfire Society carrying blazing torches flanked a hearse carrying Canon Peters to lie in Holy Cross Church overnight.
The coffin was draped with the Union Flag in recognition of his years as a forces chaplain during the Second World War.
His chaplain’s scarf bearing his medal ribbons was folded on top of the coffin with a family floral tribute. Once in church a Bible and crucifix were also placed on the coffin in memory of his ministry.
Canon Peters died aged 93 on Thursday, September 20.
Courtesy Cathy Watson, Uckfield News