19 August 2009

Priest and broadcaster with the BBC: Canon Noel Vincent

Priest and broadcaster with the BBC: Canon Noel Vincent

Canon Stephen Shipley writes:

CANON Noel Thomas Vincent, who died on 31 July, aged 72, was a priest and broadcaster whose mission was to connect with individuals, but whose ministry extended to millions.

He was born in Kampala, Uganda, but was forced to flee with his missionary family across Africa on the outbreak of the Second World War.

After returning to the UK, Vin­cent’s family eventually settled in Worcestershire, where he attended the King’s School, Worcester, from 1945 to 1955, and was a chorister at Wor­cester Cathedral.

In August 1955, he was commis­sioned as a 2nd Lieutenant National Service Officer with the Worces­tershire Regiment, serving in Cat­terick, Worcester, Iserlohn (British Army of the Rhine), and Jamaica. After finishing National Service in 1957, he went up to Cambridge, where he read Economics and Theo­logy at Fitzwilliam House (later College), receiving his MA in 1964.

Between 1960 and 1961, Vincent travelled in the Middle East on a World Council of Churches scholar­ship, spending six months research­ing ancient liturgy in the Orthodox monastic seminary on Halki, near Istanbul.

Between 1961 and 1963, Vincent returned to Cambridge to train for the General Ordination Examination at Ridley Hall. He was ordained in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne diocese in 1963, and served two curacies and chaplaincies. In 1970, he receive his first incumbency as the Vicar of Holbrook, near Belper, in Derby­shire.

Vincent was part of an advisory team to the Bishop’s Council, which helped to set up the Derby informa­tion office, and subsequently he became diocesan information officer in 1974. At the same time, he also started work as a contract producer at BBC Radio Derby, but maintained his own ecumenical responsibilities, having been appointed Priest-in-Charge of Osmaston and Edlaston, two small country parishes near Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

In 1978, Vincent moved on to the staff of Radio Derby, and in the autumn of 1982 joined the pro­duction team of BBC Religious Broadcasting, based in Oxford Road, Manchester.


In 1985, Vincent was made an Hon. Canon of Derby Cathedral, and by 1991 he had become editor of BBC Worship Programmes, reflecting his ability not only to produce program­mes, but also to unite and harmonise teams of people with sensitivity and tact during a period of great upheaval within the BBC.

Vincent’s final promotion was to become chief assistant to the Head of Religious Broadcasting in 1993. He fulfilled the role with great dis­tinction, while offering pastoral care to colleagues who had been displaced when the BBC moved the Religious Broadcasting Department from Lon­don to Manchester.

In 1995, Vincent retired from the BBC; and in 1996, during the final years of Derrick Walters’s dynamic tenure as Dean of Liverpool Cathed­ral, Vincent was appointed Canon Treasurer. He wrote a definitive guide to the Cathedral’s stained glass.

In 2002, Vincent retired to Formby, keeping up an active pro­gramme. He chaired the governors of Archbishop Blanch School in Liver­pool, was a member of the Liverpool John Moores University scholarship board, and became a part-time chaplain at HMP Altcourse, Faz­akerley. He also continued to lead The Daily Service on Radio 4, where his became a familiar and much loved voice.

Vincent was diagnosed with can­cer in 2007, and died peacefully in Aintree University Hospital with his wife Angela at his side. He leaves two children, four grandchildren, and a national congregation of people who were touched by his sincere personal ministry, and accessible but accom­plished broadcasts.

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