TWELVE YEARS after the end of the Second World War, there were still very few people in this country who took foreign holidays, and fewer still who would have travelled by air. But there were an increasing number of members from all the Churches who were beginning to think that they would love to visit the lands of the Bible, if only it could be possible and within their budget.
It was this dream that Canon Arthur Payton, who died on 15 June, aged 91, played a key part in realising. He was the founder, and, from 1957 to 1982, the organiser of Inter-Church Travel (ICT), which brought hundreds of pilgrims to the Holy Land. By strict economy of adminstration, he was able to keep the prices down, and enabled many to go who would never have thought it was within their means.
The title was significant: for Payton had as a subtext: “Travel — the path to unity.” He invited pilgrimage leaders and recruited pilgrims from different Churches. This strong ecumenical thrust was probably derived from his own parish experiences, particularly in one of the tough districts of Liverpool.
Here he found Orangemen and Roman Catholics who sometimes raised the temperature: he regularly invited them all to lunch in the church hall. In those years after the war, there was still some anti-German feeling, especially among the young lads. Payton packed them into coaches and despatched them to Hamburg to meet their German mates.
There are many pilgrims with ICT who could testify to the effectiveness of being in a group from mixed church backgrounds and sharing the experience of visiting the holy places together, and how this broke through their separations. This was central to the intentions of the organiser.
It was also effective in visits to other places on the ICT programme such as Oberammergau.
Arthur Edward Payton was based in parishes throughout. Even when he was busy abroad, he had a curate’s post where he served when he was at home (doubtless with an understanding vicar and congregation). In his retirement, he assisted in Norfolk parishes until he was 89. He was an Honorary Canon of Gibraltar Cathedral, and held a Lambeth MA — both were in recognition of the value of his ministry.
His first wife, Stella, died in 1965. He is survived by his second wife, Margaret, and five children from his first marriage.