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Canon George R. H. Smith

22 February 2013

Strong sense of vocation: Canon George Smith

Strong sense of vocation: Canon George Smith

The Revd John Pitchford writes:

CANON George Smith, who died on 17 December, in Nazareth House, Charlton Kings, aged 88, served his entire ministry in Gloucester diocese. He was the eldest of five children, the youngest of whom followed him into the priesthood.

His early ambition was to be a musician, and he studied the organ at All Saints', Cheltenham, with Dr Melville Cooke. After the Second World War, while serving in Germany, he shared administrative responsibility for the work of Church House, Preetz, and the friendships made there led towards ordination. After training at Chichester Theological College, when Dr John Moorman was its Principal, George was made deacon in 1952, and ordained priest in 1953, in Gloucester Cathedral.

His 60 years of ministry began with a curacy at St Stephen's, Gloucester, followed by the incumbencies of St Paul's, Parkend (1956-65), including, for three years, Clearwell, both in the Forest of Dean; St Barnabas's, Tuffley, (1965-82); and St Peter's, Leckhampton (1982-94). He was installed as an Hon. Canon of Gloucester Cathedral in 1981, and served on the General Synod for much of the 1970s and '80s.

George had a high view of priesthood, and lived by that light all his life, expecting much of himself and others, and having a strong sense of vocation and personal discipline. He found some changes in church order and practice troubling, and looked to bishops for authority and leadership. His pastoral care revealed a real concern for others, and was aided by his legendary memory. His encouragement and absolute discretion, coupled with traditional church teaching, revealed him to be, in the words of the people of St Peter's, Leckhampton, a "holy, humble man of God".

On retirement to the Cotswold village of Bledington, he continued his ministry with energy and dedication for a further 16 years, initially as Priest-in-Charge of three parishes. He initiated and supervised the installation of a pipe organ in St Leonard's Church, the first in its history, with meticulous attention to detail. Supported by Beryl Gunter, his housekeeper and friend, he extended a generous hospitality to many, delighting in village life.

George was a staunch upholder of the Book of Common Prayer, and was chairman of the Gloucester branch of the Prayer Book Society. He was a member of Forward in Faith from its inception. Bell-ringing was a life-long interest, and he served as chaplain to the Gloucester & Bristol Church Bell-Ringers. As an accomplished printer, he produced a multitude of magazines and booklets for parishes and charities.

For many years he owned a gold-painted Jaguar car, relishing its space (he was well over six feet tall), stylishness, and performance.

The eucharist in thanksgiving for his life and ministry, at which the Bishop of Gloucester presided, had a gentle, warm, and affectionate spirit. Besides his family, a host of former parishioners, colleagues, and friends were present. He has left a lasting legacy in all the parishes where he served.


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