Canon Hugh Beavan writes:
CANON Stuart Holden, who died on 11 February, aged 89, was a
priest who always set the pattern of the Good Shepherd before him.
Like Chaucer's poor priest, "Christ's lore and the apostles twelve
He taught, but first he followed it himself."
Stuart's gracious personality, his quiet patience, infinite
courtesy, and great humility, meant that he always seemed to have
time for people. He was a natural pastor and "people person", and
his ministry embodied the incarnational model of ministry that
characterises the Church of England at its best.
As Vicar for 27 years of the large village parish of Earls
Colne, he epitomised the traditional rural incumbent who was
genuinely the persona: known to everyone in his parish,
and totally involved in every aspect of its life.
Stuart was born in Streatham in 1923, an only child whose
burning ambition was to become a London bus conductor. He was
educated at Kingswood School, Bath (evacuated to Uppingham during
the Second World War). After leaving school at the start of the
war, he worked for a wholesale clothing manufacturer near St Paul's
Cathedral, where his duties included checking clothing coupons and
Called up in 1940, he served in the Royal Signals, in a special
wireless unit. During the D-Day landings, his unit was attached to
the US army, and landed on Omaha Beach. He travelled with his unit
through Paris and Brussels to Minden in Germany.
After his parents' home in Streatham was bombed, they moved to
Purley, and made friends with their new neighbours, whose daughter
Jean would one day be his wife. Having long felt a strong sense of
being called to ordination, Stuart was accepted to train for the
sacred ministry at the London College of Divinity, then at
Lingfield in Surrey. For four years he came under the great
influence of the Principal, Dr Donald Coggan. (Stuart and Jean were
married by him in 1953.)
Stuart's whole ministry was spent in the diocese of Chelmsford,
beginning with a curacy at St Margaret's, Barking, under the
incumbency of Frank Chadwick, later Bishop of Barking. Unusually
for those days, he did not serve a second curacy, but moved in 1954
to Colchester, to be Curate-in-Charge (later Vicar) of St
Margaret's, Berechurch, which covered the large post-war Monkwick
This was a real pioneering ministry, as there was, initially, no
church, church hall, or vicarage. Stuart and Jean and their three
children, Michael, Christopher, and Angela, lived alongside their
neighbours in a small council house. In seven years there, they
worked hard to build a sense of community, and saw the completion
of a new dual-purpose church hall, and a vicarage.
In 1961, there came a move to a very different sort of parish:
the large village of Earls Colne, where Stuart was to be vicar for
27 years; White Colne was added in 1966.
Stuart threw himself with great energy into his new parish, and
involved himself in every aspect of parish life: as chairman of the
parish council, governor of two schools, group Scout leader,
chaplain to the Air Training Corps, and town crier. Always an
assiduous visitor, he conscientiously fulfilled his ordination
commission to be "a faithful dispenser of the Word of God and of
his holy sacraments".
On top of this very active and energetic parochial ministry,
Stuart served the diocese for 30 years as secretary of the Essex
Clergy Charity. His excellent administrative skills, and sensitive
and sympathetic understanding of the needs of clergy and their
families, made him the ideal person for this task, which must have
involved long hours dealing with requests for help, keeping
minutes, and drawing up reports for meetings. This very important
but hidden ministry to his fellow clergy was recognised in 1980,
when Stuart was made an Hon. Canon of Chelmsford Cathedral.
In retirement in Colchester, Stuart was actively involved in the
life of his local parish church, St Leonard's, Lexden: officiating
and preaching at services, involved in pastoral work, and helping
in two vacancies. Until about six months before his death, he was a
familiar sight, riding his bike around the parish. In the wider
community, he served for five years as voluntary part-time chaplain
of St Helena Hospice, and was chairman of the local branch of Cruse
bereavement care for 12 years.
Throughout his long and energetic ministry, Stuart was
wonderfully supported, helped, and encouraged by Jean. His family
meant everything to him, and his great love for his children
overflowed into love for their spouses and his six
We thank God for the privilege of having known him, and for the
many ways he made Christ real for so many. May he rest in peace and
rise in glory.