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Obituary: CANON GEORGE PHILIP CHORLEY CROSFIELD

by
28 March 2013

Canon Allan Maclean writes:

CANON Philip Crosfield, who died on 13 March, aged 87, was brought up in Colinton, Edinburgh, attending St Cuthbert's, where he sang in the choir, and where the Rector, Dean William Perry, had a great influence over him. His father was a civil servant, and Philip went to school at George Watson's College.

He served as a captain in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, in Normandy and Germany, and was subsequently posted to India, an experience that influenced him in many ways. At one point, he thought of ministering in that country.

Returning to Britain and Edinburgh Theological College at Coates Hall, Philip went on to study at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He was ordained in Edinburgh diocese to a curacy under Robert Clark, later Dean of Edinburgh, at St David's, Pilton, a congregation that at the time was experiencing considerable growth in numbers. He went on to serve a second curacy at St Andrew's, St Andrews, as Anglican Chaplain to the University, where he met his wife, Sue.

Philip returned to Edinburgh diocese, when he was appointed to St Cuthbert's, Hawick, for five years, before becoming Chaplain at Gordonstoun School in 1960. In 1968, he was appointed Vice-Provost of St Mary's Cathedral, where he was told by the Provost that it would give him plenty of time to study and read. Two years later, however, when Provost Pat Rodger became Bishop of Manchester, Philip was himself appointed Provost, a position that he held for a further 20 years.

These were not easy times at the cathedral, as the expectation was that city-centre congregations would wilt away; but Philip had a vision for St Mary's, which caused him to persevere with the founding of St Mary's Music School, as a centre of musical excellence, which would enable the cathedral choir to survive and grow. It become an area of mission among pupils and parents.

Philip was not supported in this venture by everyone, including several in the Church, but he was ably assisted by Dr Dennis Townhill, the organist; together they also had the vision of mixed voices in the choir, a first among the leading UK cathedrals.

Philip was instrumental in setting up St Mary's Workshop, where young stonemasons could learn skills that were being generally lost, and yet were in great demand. The workshop also meant that a scheme of care and consolidation of the cathedral building was begun, which has ensured its future for years to come.

These two projects reflected Philip's personal interest in, and concern for, young people, especially the unemployed. He was on the board of Oxenfoord Castle School, where he took carefully prepared confirmation classes, and he was a supporter of The Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust.

Philip was a very pastorally minded priest. His care for the congregation was well known: visiting was a priority. He had a keen ecumenical sense, which, through the Council of West End Churches, he often emphasised.

He took his full share of provincial duties, serving on many committees, always of the view that many changes in the Church were necessary; and he took a certain pride in having introduced into the Church's canons the expression "not unacceptable" rather than just "acceptable", when changes to congregational affairs are to be introduced. He felt strongly the need for women's ordination, and, indeed, their full involvement at every level of the Church.

On retirement in 1990, Philip was appointed OBE, and was made an Hon. Canon of the cathedral. The Crosfields moved to Silverburn, where he enjoyed his garden, walking, and reading. He continued his ministry as NSM at Penicuik and West Linton, finally retiring two years ago. In 1996, he wrote Songs and Stones: The story of St Mary's Cathedral; and, in 2005, he contributed his remarkable and very candid wartime memories, No Heroics, as part of the BBC's People's War Archive.

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