02 November 2006

THE Revd Norman Hill, who died on 16 December, served most of his ministry in St Albans diocese.  At his funeral service in Hexham Abbey on 22 December, the congregation reflected on how God had carved out in Norman a priest who was caring, compassionate, humorous, and faithful.

A Devon man by birth, he gained a double first in French and German from Christ's, Cambridge, before becoming a teacher at Bedford Modern School. Owing to his pacifist principles, he farmed near Cambridge during the Second World War, although he had agreed to work as an orderly on the front line.

Ordained in 1945, he served a curacy at St Mary's, Hitchin, before joining the staff of St Albans Abbey as Precentor. There he brought a calming and reconciliatory influence to the life of the Chapter.

There followed a very happy 14 years as Vicar of Rickmansworth, where there was a flourishing of ecumenical links, particularly with the Methodist Church, and the establishment under his chairmanship of a "Care" scheme, together with 26 flats for the elderly, which continues successfully to this day.

In all of this, Norman was supported by his wife Gladwin, a former medical missionary whom he had met in his mid-40s. After further ministry in the parishes of Northill and Moggerhanger, and a spell as Rural Dean of Biggleswade, he retired to the place of Gladwin's roots in Northumberland. From their home above the River Allen, they continued their work to alleviate poverty, and were early supporters of the fairtrade movement.

After Gladwin's death in October 2000, Norman was supported by many friends. It was with one of these friends that early in 2005, in celebration of his 90th birthday, Norman embarked on a three-week visit exploring Egypt. The photographs show him dressed as if on a Carter and Carnarvon expedition, and he returned with humorous stories about his royal treatment from the Egyptians.

Norman did not believe he was a very good priest, filled as he was with self-doubt, and at times suffering from depression. The reality is that the ministry entrusted to him touched many people with its wisdom and understanding, accompanied by a sparkle in Norman's eyes. All who knew him are thankful for his ability to encourage others to be drawn to and delight in God.

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