Clergy Fear Dark Forces Influence Congregation

sundaymercury - The dark forces of witchcraft may be at work in a Midland parish where 14 vicars have been ousted, or quit, in the last 40 years.

Rev Francis Biddlecombe, one of the long line of clergymen driven out by the flock, fears that evil has visited Worcestershire’s sleepy Teme Valley.

The 79 year-old vicar, who spent five years in the Rectory at Hanley Broadheath, spoke out after the village hit the headlines last week.

Rev Mark Sharpe told how he became the latest pastor to flee, claiming that he was driven out by “sinister behaviour” among worshippers.

He said his car tyres were slashed, his phone lines cut and his pet dog poisoned during a five-year campaign of intimidation.

But he was just the latest in a sinister succession of preachers leaving the rural parish abruptly, or after complaining of ill health.

No fewer than FOURTEEN vicars have quit since 1969.

“Going through all those vicars just isn’t right,” said Rev Biddlecombe, who was forced out by his own flock in 1984.

“My instincts tell me that if you are trying to do the work of the Lord but you keep being pushed out, there is more to it than meets the eye.

“There are rumours of a coven of witches on Clee Hill not too far away.

“I know of a recent mission by the Methodists who prayed all night and one of them was very conscious of evil.

“If you can’t make sense of why they go, some other force is in the background and it has to be the opposite of good.

“They need to get to the bottom of all this and it needs a strong praying against the work of evil.”

The latest problems arose after Rev Sharpe arrived with his wife and four children in late 2005, expecting a Vicar of Dibley-style existence.

Mafia hitman

Alarm bells were set ringing when he was warned by a church warden: “We didn’t like the last vicar so we chewed him up and spat him out.”

The 42 year-old former policeman said he was confronted on his doorstep by a worshipper who was “acting like a Mafia hitman”.

Others told him that he should keep his nose out of parish affairs because he was dealing with “local churches for local people”.

“There was some very sinister behaviour from a small groups of individuals,” said Rev Sharpe.

He is now suing the church for constructive dismissal after his union claimed that the Bishop of Worcester, Rt Rev John Inge, had stood by during the bullying and washed his hands of the affair “like Pontius Pilate”.

In 2004, Rev Martin Reed quit the parish after he was struck down by stress-related illness.

But he told the Sunday Mercury that he did not experience any problems with the worshippers in the parish.

Community figures have their own explanation for Rev Sharpe’s departure, saying he made enemies when he failed to turn up for a funeral and left an undertaker to address 200 mourners.

Former parish clerk and district councillor Alec Wall, 75, said: “His comments have upset a lot of people. Anybody who comes to this community and makes an effort to blend in will find themselves very welcome.

“When you do things like failing to turn up for a funeral, you really put the cat among the pigeons.”

Church leaders say they are shocked and disappointed that Rev Sharpe decided to break his silence and speak out before next May’s tribunal in Birmingham.

A diocesan spokesman said: “Mark Sharpe’s allegations, including that with regard to a culture of neglect and bullying or otherwise, are wholly denied.”
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