A Worthing vicar's wife who gave birth in the church car park, helped by members of the congregation, has told of her relief at her son's safe delivery.

Stunned Diane Stevenson thought she had the flu when she woke in the night shivering and aching.

But within hours she was giving birth in the back of an ambulance parked outside her husband's Worthing church.

The scene, which she describes as "something out of The Vicar Of Dibley", included youngsters from the church youth group and a Bible study class.

Mrs Stevenson, 35, who lives in Angola Road, Worthing, and is married to the Rev David Stevenson, was not due to give birth for another three months.

Her night-time pains felt nothing like labour but she still felt groggy in the morning. She tried to cancel the Bible study group she normally leads but couldn't get through to two members.

She thought about phoning the doctor but the Bible study group was knocking on the door and she put it off.

Eventually she called for medical help. The midwife at the hospital told her to stay exactly where she was and wait for an ambulance.

Children from the youth group had to be dispatched to hail the ambulance, which had missed the vicarage.

Diane was in her husband's study when suddenly things began to happen. She said: "I bent down and saw the baby's head."

Medics ushered her out to the ambulance in the church car park while children returned home from school and the Bible study group waited in the background.

She said: "It became like a madhouse so I got in the ambulance and within half an hour of ringing for an ambulance I had given birth."

Jesse Stevenson was born weighing 6lb14oz on November 15 and is now back at home.

The couple, who are originally from Nottingham, have four other children - Cash, 12, Candice, 11, Esther, three, and Elspeth, 16 months.

Mr Stevenson, 40, vicar of St Stephen's in Angola Road, said: "It was quite funny really - it took us all by surprise."