Obituary: THE VEN. JOHN SANDERSON LONG

by
12 June 2008

The Revd Will Adam writes:

THE Ven. John Long, formerly Archdeacon of Ely, died on 4 June, aged 94, having been a priest for more than 70 years.

His ministry started with a curacy in the diocese of Canterbury. He was ordained deacon and priest by Archbishop Lang. During the Second World War, he served as a naval chaplain, and laid claim to having been the first seagoing chaplain of a Royal Navy destroyer.

There then followed seven significant years as Archbishop’s Domestic Chaplain at Lambeth Palace. There were significant events: the promotion of post-war reconciliation and reconstruction in Britain and Europe, the foundation of the Church of South India, and, in 1948, both the Lambeth Conference and the first Assembly of the World Council of Churches.

He was at Archbishop Fisher’s side at significant national and royal events, starting with the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, going through the baptisms of Prince Charles and Princess Anne, and the funeral of King George VI, and ending, shortly after he left Lambeth, with the Coronation, at which he carried the Cross of Canterbury.

Incumbencies at Bearstead, Kent, and Petersfield, Hampshire, during the 1950s and 1960s, grounded John in traditional parish ministry. The “swinging Sixties” did not completely pass him by, and on one family holiday on the Isle of Wight he accompanied his teenage children to the 1969 Isle of Wight festival to see Bob Dylan perform live — albeit from a distance.

He was delighted to be invited to become Archdeacon of Ely in 1970, and was very keen to retain a parish ministry. He combined the archdeaconry with being Rector of St Botolph’s, Cambridge. The organisational skills and attention to detail that he had honed at Lambeth and put to use in his parishes were able to flourish. He remained a parish priest at heart, and was uncomfortable with the model of the parish priest as manager rather than pastor.

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His traditional, parochial paradigm of ministry informed his archidiaconal duties. He was a great support to the clergy of his archdeaconry, and notoriously suspicious of spending funds on central church administration which could be spent on clergy stipends.

In retirement, John served as Diocesan Retired Clergy Officer, and helped out in parishes, including Girton, on the outskirts of Cambridge, where he lived from 1981. He was traditional by nature, kindly but shy, committed to his family, and always seeking to promote the values of family life. He was deeply committed to the faith and to the discipline of regular prayer.

He stopped taking services as he approached the age of 90, but remained active in the church (and continued to walk to the shops) until the week before his death.

He met Rosamond, Archbishop Fisher’s niece, at a party at Lambeth, and they married in early 1948 after John had negotiated suitable married accommodation and a wedding date that did not clash with the Lambeth Conference. In later life, he took on the running of the house, and cared for Rosamond before her death in 1999.

He died peacefully after suffering a stroke, and is survived by his four children and 11 grandchildren.

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