Overseeing the refurbishment of Rustington parish church has been the main part of the Rev Zachary Allen’s 17-year ministry in the village.
He will now retire knowing St Peter and St Paul Church has been brought into the 21st century and services are filled with people of all ages.
Mr Allen came to Rustington in January 2001 from the parish of Findon, Clapham and Patching.
His last service will be on Sunday, July 22, but he officially retires on August 15 and will be available as a part-time locum for the diocese.
Mr Allen said: “It is a significant parish and a well-attended church. We have lost a few but I have heard it said the church has renewed itself, and quite a lot of people have joined in the two years.
“I am mindful that those who shared the vision really put their shoulders to the wheel and without their unstinting co-operation and work, it would not have come about.
“It wasn’t without setbacks. We tried to make sure the project was undergirded with prayer and faith. We tried to discern what God wanted in that situation rather than our own whim.
“The interior of the church was very much as it had been since 1861. It was cold, it was inadequately lit and it had an out-of-date sound system. It was very inflexible, so really there was a need to refurbish it for the way we worship in the 21st century without destroying the very fine features of what is a Grade II listed building.
“In fact, the project has recovered, indeed highlighted, some of the features. A lot of the Medieval stonework that was for years covered up with whitewash has been revitalised to the point you can see the mason’s chisel marks.”
The work to refurbish, re-order and extend, to include a fully-accessible toilet, took a long time to come to fruition and for 12 months, church members were ‘pilgrim people’.
Rustington Community Primary School allowed them the use of its hall for the duration of their journey and that made all the difference.
Mr Allen said: “The school has held its carol service and other occasions in the church ever since it was founded, so the school and church have a long association. At a time of change and uncertainty, to have that welcome meant a lot.”
Highs during his time at the church have included the wonderful festival of flowers last year, to celebrate the refurbishment.
And for a time, the church was trusted with the training of curates, the next generation of clergy.
Mr Allen said: “This church has always been a church where curates have come for training experience but that hadn’t happened for about 16 to 17 years. We were invited to become a training parish again, which was really good for the parish and for me too.”
One low point was the lead being stolen from the roof in 2010, causing a great deal of stress and inconvenience because the roof was not waterproof and there was quite a lot of damage.
Mr Allen is looking forward to retirement and will move to Findon with his wife, Margaret.
“I still want to be able to be useful as a priest. It has been entrusted to me for as long as I can,” he added.
“Overall I feel very privileged to have been trusted with leading this community but it is time to hand it on.
“We have quite a complement of retired clergy who will maintain services during the vacancy.”
Mr Allen enjoys off-road cycling and walking, and looks forward to spending more time with their four grandchildren. Margaret will still be working part-time in London but he hopes they will spend more time with their caravan.