Spithurst

The church echoed on three Sundays a month to the fifth century liturgy of St John Chrysostom spoken in English, Slavonic and occasionally Greek. Because this hamlet in the leafy lane north of Barcombe was the scene of a unique experiment in inter-church co-operation.

Spithurst had one of three Anglican churches in the area administered by the Rev Timothy Fletcher. But as Mr Fletcher used it only once a month he allowed the local Russian Orthodox clergy to use it during the three remaining Sundays. The small congregation of between 15 and 30 people, made up of Russian exiles and converts, was presided over by Arch Priest Serge Hackel, who lived nearby. He described the sharing scheme as a deeply appreciated ecumenical gesture.

Famous for their elaborate ritual, the services gave the church a fresh purpose. Locals still recall the shock in 1969 when plans were announced to close and demolish the building. Large numbers wrote to the local newspaper and 200 signed a petition in protest. The matter went all the way to the judicial committee of the Privy Council, and a year later the Queen signed an order withdrawing the scheme.