A VICAR is moving on after spending more than a decade transforming a church on the edge of closure into a success.

Rev Archie Coates moved from London to Brighton in 2009 with his wife Sam and their four children.

He was tasked with bringing back St Peter’s church, known as Brighton's "cathedral", from the brink of closure after the Church of England said it should be shut due to its small congregation and the amount of work needed to repair the crumbling building.

When Rev Coates joined, the congregation was around 25 people. But after 13 years of hard work, things have been completely transformed.

The Argus: Rev Coates will leave the church later this yearRev Coates will leave the church later this year

“We used to see at the beginning of 2020 about one thousand people come through the church on a weekend,” he said.

“But due to the pandemic it’s more like 500, but building again – but that’s partly because we’ve planted.”

Planting is when a member of the clergy from a successful church moves to another area with a small group, to revitalise its failing church.

In the 13 years since Rev Coates arrived at St Peter's he has completed great work in the community, but will leave his post in September.

He said that throughout his career in Brighton, he has seen many things that make him proud of his work, but there is one thing that stands out for him most.

“Pride comes in seeing people who were not church-goers, were not Christians, have their lives transformed – we’ve seen that countless times,” he said.

“Each Saturday night we have a meal for the homeless, those in hostels, and we see the extraordinary transformation in the areas of recovery – and just to be part of that has been the greatest joy for us.”

After a successful spell in Sussex, Rev Coates will go back to his original church, Holy Trinity Brompton in London.

“I’ve been offered the job as vicar there – in some ways it's more of the same with revitalisation of the church," he said.

“While we’ve been at St Peter’s we’ve been able to plant in Hastings, Bognor Regis, Crawley and then three or four in Brighton and Hove itself.

“It’s an exciting move – but I’ll hugely miss Brighton.

“Our youngest child is going into Year 10, so we needed to find a school place for him in London for September.

“When we went to see the school, we weren’t quite sure whether there would be any places but they said ‘no, no – everyone’s moving out of London to Brighton, why on earth do you want to move from Brighton back in to London?’.

Moving in to fill Rev Coates’ shoes is Reverend Dan Millest, who is currently in Kuala Lumpur, but will head to Sussex in September.

Rev Millest was planted in the Kuala Lumpur church – with international planting a common occurrence for members of the clergy.

The Argus: St Peter's church, BrightonSt Peter's church, Brighton

“He and his wife’s family are British, and they did a similar thing, they planted from Holy Trinity Brompton seven years ago,” said Rev Coates.

“He’s been associate vicar there, so I think he’d like to have a go at doing the top job so he’s going to move to be vicar in Brighton.

“Like in any job – I’ve been here 13 years, so that’s quite a long time to be in one place – he’s keen to go on to the next step.

“When I first came here, we believe in our product, if you want to use that word. We believe Jesus makes a difference in people’s lives – but that’s all very well, but you have to package the product and make it accessible.

“Sundays we have an open door – people want to make a difference.”