After a year and a half without a priest, this week the parish of St Mark and St Andrew in Surbiton welcomes the Reverend David Houghton.

Congregation member Mike Gidley said: "It has been hard to find a new priest, firstly because it is a complicated process, but also because there is a shortage of vicars at the moment - not a lot of people want to go into the calling anymore."

He added that the Surbiton post is particularly challenging because of the church's community development programme, The Vision.

This programme includes the redevelopment of Surbiton's historic churches and halls, and will examine the role of the parish within the community.

He said: "There is a lot of extra work involved with this project. We are lucky to have David."

Mr Houghton said: "I feel a need to complete my ministry in an English parish, and there is something about the needs of this parish, especially The Vision, that I feel I can contribute to."

Mr Houghton has travelled far and wide, working as a chaplain in Paris and Madrid in the past.

He is now pleased to settle in Surbiton, bringing his well-travelled dog, Zach, with him.

There will be a formal licensing ceremony on Thursday, March 29, at 7.30 pm in St Mark's church in St Mark's Hill, Surbiton.

The ceremony will be led by the Right Reverend Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark. This will be followed by an informal reception from 9pm at Surbiton YMCA, Victoria Road. Edward Davey MP and the Mayor of Kingston will be attending to welcome David to Surbiton.