The keys of St Mary’s Church were formally handed to its new Rector this week in a ceremony presided over by the Bishop of Dorking.
Before his arrival in Fetcham, Iranian-born Revd Heidari had already made headlines as the founder and captain of the Church of England football team, Archbishop of Canterbury FC.
In his early twenties the young Pouya Heidari was a professional player in Iran with a growing reputation. But after his conversion to Christianity, life became increasingly hazardous. He became a humanitarian aid worker in Tehran and was active in underground churches and the distribution of Bibles.
Eventually, he and his family were forced to leave the country. After he was granted political asylum in the UK, Pouya decided to train for the priesthood in Durham.
Married to Debora, and with two young sons, Pouya comes to Fetcham after a curacy in Sunderland, where he came up with the idea of the C of E soccer team.
In Monday’s installation service, there were words of welcome from a range of Fetcham’s community groups, including the Scouts, Fetcham’s traders, Oakfield’s head teacher, Fetcham United Charities and Fetcham Residents Association.
Speaking after the service, the Revd Heidari said: “My family and I love being in this part of the world. I’ve always lived in urban areas, used to smoke and traffic, but it’s such a privilege to be in an area like this, where you have all this beauty around you. So I’m very surprised to be able to serve the community here, but it is also a great privilege.”
Pouya says he will be listening and watching to see how he can become involved beyond the immediate confines of St Mary’s, but sport is something that remains close to his heart.
“I’m really keen to see people enjoying sport, I would like to link in with some of the community football clubs, and I’m a keen runner as well. So community runs and community football are things I would like to encourage.”
In the meantime, the Revd Heidari begins taking services at St Mary’s with immediate effect. You can find all the regular service details on the St Mary’s website.