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Repairs completed at historic church as new vicar settles in
11:08am Friday 19th October 2012 in News
A NEW roof and a new vicar are some of the changes to have taken place recently at one of Darlington’s oldest churches.
Reverend Mark East, of St. Andrew’s, in Haughton, relocated to Darlington in August with his wife, Elaine.
The 55-year-old, who is originally from Essex, has spent the past 12 years working in a parish in Coniston, Cumbria, an area a tenth of the size of his new patch.
Work on St. Andrew’s started in April and is now complete. Besides the new roof, repairs included drainage, work to the windows and to the ancient internal woodwork, plus a new gable cross.
The project cost about £200,000, with funds raised through an English Heritage grant and local fundraising.
Rev East came to the church relatively late in his career, having previously designed aircraft systems for a helicopter company. He said his move from design engineer to vicar seemed natural.
He said: “I got to thinking, ‘Am I going to spend the rest of my life designing at a drawing board?’ “I got the sense that maybe I wasn’t. Sometimes God doesn’t plan out your future for you, but guides you to the next step, and I felt I was being called to ordination.
“If anything, the church often looks at people who have a bit of life experience as a positive thing.
“I’ve always been really interested in how things work. I like things to be working, I get a lot of enjoyment out of mending things, trying to get it right.
“That’s part of what excites me with ministry, if people’s lives aren’t working, it can help to heal that.”
Rev East said he is looking forward to getting down to Croft, and not necessarily for the purpose of visiting his counterpart in the village - Haughton’s new vicar is keen to go racing.
He said: “I’ve always been into Formula 1. We used to go to Silverstone when I lived down south. I got to drive a single-seater Formula Ford.
“When I was a teenager, I actually started to train for it, but I was persuaded out of it by my parents. I suppose it’s a minor regret, but you can’t live with regrets.”
Rev East has enjoyed a friendly welcome from his new parishioners.
He said: “Without wanting to knock Cumbria, it’s a different sort of welcoming here. In shops, people smile, they go that extra length to be welcoming. People say hello, they strike up conversations.”