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SERVICES 
banner Friday, 8 February, 2002, 13:24 GMT
Vicar is an early favourite
A vicar is to conduct a church service in a north London bookies
Rev Wheeler says the church raffle is like gambling
Regular punters at a branch of William Hill's in north London will soon be delighted to see the bookies opening its doors early.

But the gamblers will be in for a shock if they venture through the doors of the shop in Camden for an early-morning flutter.

They will encounter a church service being carried out in there by eccentric vicar, the Rev Nicholas Wheeler.

His church, St Michael's, is celebrating its 125th anniversary.

Because it used to occupy the site where the William Hill's now stands, the 41-year-old cleric arranged for a special service to be carried out there.

Manager John Gilpin agreed to open his doors at eight in the morning for the service, and told The Sun newspaper: "I am sure some of our regulars will be there."

Raffles

Rev Wheeler added: "I don't think there is anything wrong in holding a service there."

A William Hill's spokesman said it was "the oddest request we've ever had."

The spokesman also offered the madcap vicar a punt.

"There is a lot of betting going on about who'll be the next Archbishop of Canterbury. If the vicar wants a flutter we'll give him special odds."

Perhaps surprisingly, Rev Wheeler does not seem too averse to taking Hill's up on the offer.

"I've taken part in church raffles, which is a form of gambling," he said.

See also:

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