Emergency bells rather than church bells rang out in Scaynes Hill when the vicar went into labour.
The Revd Lisa Barnett was two days ahead of schedule for her planned caesarian and the team of doctors, nurses and anaesthetists at the Princess Royal Hospital scrambled.
All was well a few hours later, however, when twins Amy and Cara came into the world weighing exactly the same and making Lisa the first woman priest in the Diocese of Chichester, covering East and West Sussex, to give birth while in post.
Amy and Cara, who unusually weighed exactly the same at 5lbs 9oz each, are now doing well and mum and husband, Stephen, are hoping their new family will be a great advertisement for more young women to be accepted into the church.
Lisa, 33, said: “The twins are so amazing and Stephen and I do feel very blessed.
“Stephen felt it particularly because it was the early hours of the morning when we went into hospital for what became an emergency caesarian and to have the whole staff team – doctors, nurses, anaesthetist – scurrying around for me and our babies in the middle of the night, felt like something really beautiful and wonderful.”
Lisa was ordained five-and-a-half years ago having been a primary school teacher before that. She was appointed Priest in Charge at St Augustine’s Church in Scaynes Hill 18 months ago and her congregation is thriving with between 50 and 60 people in the mixed age congregation at Sunday worship.
“The church here in Scaynes Hill is just wonderful,” Lisa said. “There is a strong sense of family and team with everyone playing a part. They have all been round to the Vicarage and provided us with a meal every evening for the first fortnight.”
Lisa added: “So far they have been very good babies, although the nights can be a bit of a challenge and it is hard work.
“The church has been really lovely about it, too, and has come up with a very generous maternity package of nine months.
“What I am hoping is that the whole of our maternity period will be a positive experience for the community so that other churches feel they can appoint young women who may want to have families.”
Lisa’s work and duties are now being handled by a team from St Augustine’s and the diocese including retired vicar Jean Sedgley. The Revd Sedgely said: “The twins are absolutely gorgeous! Everyone is extremely happy for Lisa and Stephen.”