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Veteran Chelsfield vicar retires at 85

PUBLISHED: 16:15 21 January 2011

Leslie Virgo

Leslie Virgo

Archant

One of Kent's oldest vicars has hung up his robes for the last time after 37 years in his post.

The Reverend Canon Leslie Virgo retired as rector of St Martin of Tours Church, Chelsfield, aged 85.

Rev Canon Virgo will officially leave his post on January 31, and gave his last service at the historic Gibbs Lane church on January 9 where parishioners presented him with gifts including a photo album, books and some £3,300 to spend on his new home in Gloucestershire.

The veteran priest said: “These years have been years of growth and value for me, years of helping others to value themselves and grow.

“I feel no sense of bereavement leaving St Martin’s. It is part of who I am but I have no regrets in going, I have had a sort of change of perspective in which I am aware of the power of just being me.”

The congregation paid tribute to a man who ‘brought the church alive’ with his creativity to worship, particularly when it came to family services.

Ann Blatcher, from Court Road, Orpington, is the warden at the church. She said: “He was a unique vicar and he made weddings, baptisms and funerals really special.

“Children were involved in every aspect of the service, even helping at a baptism. Funerals, while geared to the pain of the family, were always a celebration of the life of the person who had died.”

Rev Canon Virgo added: “There is something very powerful in meeting someone face to face in the time of a crisis. In 37 years I never had a funeral that wasn’t a celebration.”

Before becoming vicar of St Martin’s in 1974 the reverend worked as chaplain and psychotherapist at Warlingham Park Hospital in Surrey and he also formed the West Kent Association for Pastoral Care and Counselling.

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