updated 9/17/2006 10:57:54 PM ET 2006-09-18T02:57:54

Failing vision forced him to memorize part of the service, but a 100-year-old priest returned to the pulpit of the Church of England on Sunday and his efforts won a cheer from worshippers.

The Rev. Kingsley Laws officially retired in 1979 but jumped at the chance of preaching to his flock one last time at his local church in Wells, southwest England.

He just may have been the oldest priest to ever conduct a service in the Church of England, the church said.

Because of his vision problem, Laws had to memorize the Communion that he performed in front of a packed congregation at St. Thomas Church, and that won him a round of applause from appreciative worshippers.

After the Eucharist service the vicar said he had made a couple of mistakes but had enjoyed his return to the pulpit.

“The service is always changing a little bit and it’s different from how I remember it, but I think I managed pretty well,” he said. “I enjoyed it very much. It’s a very friendly congregation and I’ve had a most wonderful week.”

The guest performance by Laws, who was ordained at the age of 50 after retiring from a career as a colonial policeman in Kenya and Fiji, was praised by his colleague, the Rev. Denys Goodman — a comparatively young 82.

“It was inspirational, encouraging and very well received,” Goodman said.

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