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Obituary: Robert Andrew Netherwood

04 January 2013

Canon Dick Williams writes:
ROBERT NETHERWOOD, who died on 12 November, aged 70, was an architect, missionary, youth-group leader, and clergy husband. In each of these aspects, his life was notable; in combination, they made him a shining example of contemporary lay discipleship.

Rob was an architect, married to Anne, also an architect. Together, they jointly found renewed adult faith in their parish in Liverpool, where their home became open house to many of the church's teenagers, even while the Netherwoods were busily raising their own young family.

At the height of this phase of their activity, they attended one of the CMS annual rallies that, in those days, filled the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. Here, their growing sense of vocation crystallised into a call to work as missionary architects in Tanzania. From 1976 to 1984, they helped develop low-cost renewable housing schemes for Dodoma.

Return to England led to Anne's ordination in the diocese of Lichfield in 1991, while, for Rob, multi-tasking as a clergy husband meant taking over the running of the family architectural firm of Robert and Anne Netherwood while using his spare time to develop young people's work in the parish.

He also helped with diocesan quinquennial inspections, sometimes assisting clergy facing the difficult task of adapting church premises for the demands and opportunities of a new day.

Rob was the most unassuming of men; his manner diverted attention from the greatness of his enterprises, and the significance of their integration in one working life. Speaking at his funeral, the Revd Nigel Coatsworth said that, in the redesigning of his church building, Rob worked alongside him as a fellow-servant, not as the expert he clearly was, and the manner of his life was rooted in the awareness of God's love.

His battle with cancer over the last three years was met in the same spirit. He continued to work at his practice until the last months of his life, eventually setting up office at home for a final few weeks. He died as he said he wanted to, at home and surrounded by his family.

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