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28 September 2012

The Rt Revd David Hawtin writes:

IN HER obituary of the Rt Revd Anthony Dumper (Gazette, 7 September), Samantha Setchell has a tantalising reference to his appointment as Vicar of St Peter's, Stockton (1970-77). I served alongside him in an exciting and maturing second curacy (1971-74).

In a single year, 1970, Bishop Ian Ramsey brought two significant people from challenging situations abroad to challenging ministries in Durham diocese: Bishop Kenneth Skelton from Rhodesia to Sunderland, and Tony Dumper from Singapore to Stockton. Each was appointed Rural Dean from the outset, with a brief to give leadership to a significant urban area at a time of change.

Tony forged a creative alliance with the formidable and highly creative Teesside Industrial Mission and its leader, Canon Bill Wright, because the Church needed to engage with Teesside as a new political entity, linking communities north and south of the River Tees. He worked, too, with John Yates, imaginatively appointed as Bishop in Teesside (1972-75). Episcopal initiatives had delivered key people into key positions, ready to lead the Church creatively and expectantly.

As incumbent, Tony, with a determination as unwavering as it was gracious, encouraged a well-resourced church to look outwards at this changing world. He grappled with church buildings and town-centre ministry. He supported residents in the less fashionable area of the parish as they faced upheaval. And, at the other end of this large parish, brimming with new housing and new perspectives, he established a new worship centre in the church school, in a partnership with the overlapping parish.

Relishing the company of thoughtful and questioning lay people, he worked to find them a place within the well-established patterns of church life. He led the congregation through liturgical change in its pre-ASB phase. He trusted colleagues with important pieces of work. He dispensed vouchers for the local fish-and-chip shop to the many callers at the vicarage, saying that they were in need of a meal.

With a quiet and engaging eagerness, he kept the vision of the Church broad, and patiently won allies to take imaginative projects forward. His engagement with the parish and the area matched the forward-looking mood of Teesside in the '70s. The call to episcopal ministry came not to somebody waiting for it, but to a priest energised by the practicalities of grass-roots ministry in the modern world, with skills in full flow, ready for the wider canvas that the see of Dudley provided.


Sue Dilworth writes:

THE Revd Professor Christopher Evans (Gazette, 10 and 24 August, and 14 September) was a caring teacher to the very end.

As a new Reader, licensed in 2009, I initially found it daunting to have to preach in front of him. In the event, nothing could have been more rewarding. He would always ask for copies of my sermons, and want to talk to me about them; he was unfailingly generous in his comments on my efforts (what an opportunity to have such a tutorial!). He always sent me away with a question, both to ponder and test me out ("What do you mean by spirituality?").

At the age of 102, he still wanted to give: in his own words, he was "lit up" by the opportunity to talk theology. I feel immensely privileged to have known him.


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