Darth Vader appeared in a haze of smoke and startled the congregation at Holy Cross Church, Uckfield, on Sunday.
He shouldn’t have seemed out of place because the church was full of hair-raising characters from pirates to smugglers, and more friendly ones too, from pearly kings and queens, to Tudor lords and ladies.
The event was the annual carol service of the Sussex Association of Bonfire and Carnival Societies.
The problem was that Darth Vader wasn’t expected. He hadn’t taken part in a procession through Uckfield from Harcourt Road to Holy Cross Church like most of the others.
The rest of the motley crew were members of the association but this manifestation of a Star Wars character was new to them.
There was just one person in the church who knew what to expect and that was Carol Watts-Arnold, secretary of the association. She had been let into the secret by Fr John Wall who wanted to enter into the spirit of the occasion, adding fun to proceedings, as has been done by Holy Cross rectors over many years.
So, it was Fr John who made the striking entry to the church and Carol said it was a great stunt. Everybody was settled when the building started filling with smoke and Darth Vader emerged complete with light sabre.
Carol added: “He was very good.”
Carol organised the event and said it was a lovely afternoon with the Uckfield Performance Ensemble, including their youngest members, playing songs in the church. “They support us every year,” she said.
The weather was terrible, rainy and windy, but there was still a good turnout with about 250 people in the congregation representing about 15 bonfire societies from across Sussex and members of the public.
Uckfield Mayor Cllr Louise Eastwood was there too and joined by mayors from Crowborough, Burgess Hill and Littlehampton.
Carol said a collection raised £373.15 which will be divided between Holy Cross Church and Sussex 4×4 Response, who provide assistance to the emergency services and local authorities in adverse weather conditions, and who have helped bonfire societies with road closures at their events during the year.
• Thanks to Kez Woodward who took the pictures used here.