As the packed pub raised a glass, the vicar of Moulsecoomb said it was like being at his own wake; but there was nothing downbeat about Father John Wall’s leaving bash at the Bevy – the community pub he helped open. It was like an old Mayors roadshow while Brighton’s three main political parties were present along with teachers, builders, sixth formers from Brighton Aldridge Academy, residents, church-goers, journalists – a whole cross section of society turning out to show their appreciation to someone who would always go that extra mile for people (now I am starting to sound like he’s dead!). Father John – the vicar whose such a good bloke he almost makes you want to believe in God! His eleven year stint as the vicar of Moulsecoomb saw numbers double at his congregation; but he was more than just a vicar with many unbelievers acknowledging the difference he has made to one of Brighton’s forgotten communities.
One of my kids said he was the funniest adult he knew as he did another assembly at Moulsecoomb Primary dressed up as Darth Vader. He loved to get adults to sing ‘Thank you God for giving us food’ to the Superman theme. One time I thought he was doing really well selling Bevy shares at a beer festival. He just shrugged that most people were trying to argue about the existence of God. On the way home on the bus he tapped one passenger on the shoulder who was the doing the usual there-never-reopen-a-dodgy-Moulsecoomb-boozer line and gave him a piece of his mind. The guy jumped off at the next stop, probably arguing that even the vicars weren’t to be messed with in Moulsecoomb!
Would the Bevy have opened without him? I’m not sure it would and it also stuck me as ironic that in our right-on ever-so-smug-city it was the old fashioned Church that were our biggest backers and believers. He also served as chaplain for three different Mayors – where the highlight must surely have been blessing a new fairground ride on the pier!
Not only had Father John played a pivotal role in helping re-open the Bevy, but the church hall in Bevendean is now a community centre with food bank and dementia café. He held monthly Leaders Lunches bringing together people to help run services more effectively. The church now hosts Sussex University’s ‘Into University’ scheme, running afterschool clubs for local pupils.
With austerity sweeping away anything that isn’t statutory, it is local communities and the church that are having to plug the gaps. Our massive loss is Uckfields gain and I pray for the next vicar of Moulsecoomb. They’ve got some bloody big boots to fill.