Apr 20 2011 By Michael Russell
St Thomas the Apostle Church, in Boston Road, Hanwell
A VICAR has left his congregation to become the first in the borough to cross from the Anglican to the Catholic Church.
Father Peter Andrews has taken Pope Benedict XVI's offer to join the ordinariate, a group of clergy and laymen within the Catholic Church able to keep most of their Anglican identity.
It has meant the 66-year-old has had to leave St Thomas the Apostle Church, in Boston Road, Hanwell, a decision he said was 'painful'.
He said: “I left for lots of reasons really. But the most important one has to be that I have always yearned for the day that the Church of England would be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. I think the essence of Christianity is that one should seek unity. The Church of England always was part of the Roman Catholic Church until Henry the Eighth decided he wanted to get married again.”
His defection has meant him retiring from St Thomas's more than three years early and leaving behind a congregation he has served for 25 years.
He said: “Leaving was very painful, very sad.”
Church warden David Jewell said the congregation was shocked when they heard his decision. He added: “It's quite a bereavement when someone has been there so long, it's quite strange not to have him around. It took us all by surprise but we have to look forward now.”
A new vicar should arrive in the autumn. In the meantime visiting clergy have been taking services and Mr Jewell has been leading morning and evening prayer.
Father Peter will be part of a central London group being established by the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The ordinariate was formally brought into being in January for the Anglican faithful and their clergy in England and Wales.
The former St Thomas's vicar will be among about 60 clergy and 900 laymen received into the ordinariate this Easter. He will remain in the vicarage of St Thomas's until he is posted elsewhere, probably in the next four to six weeks.
If all goes to plan Father Peter will be one of six priests ordained in Westminster Cathedral in June.