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Obituary: Mark Cole

15 August 2014

Canon Hugh Beavan writes:

MARK COLE, who died in April, aged 73, after a long and courageous fight against cancer, gave outstanding service for some 30 years to the diocese of Chelmsford, the Colchester episcopal area, the Colchester deanery, and St Leonard's, Lexden.

Mark was always proud of his roots in Leicester and grateful for the way the Christian faith shaped his life. Aged seven, he became a chorister at St John the Baptist, Knighton: this meant choir practice three times a week, and three fully choral services on Sundays. Later, he became head chorister, and then a server and sacristan. At St John's, Mark acquired his great love of church music, and for well ordered and reverent traditional Anglican worship. He also became a lifelong supporter of the Leicester Tigers, and acquired a great love for rugby union and cricket.

St John's had a flourishing youth fellowship, where Mark first met his future wife Barbara, who later became a Sunday-school teacher. When Mark left Wyggeston Grammar School in 1958, his headmaster wrote prophetically: "He should develop into a responsible person of excellent character, and be capable of obtaining professional qualifications. Later on he should attain a responsible position."

Mark joined the Midland Bank (now HSBC), and studied for his Institute of Bankers exams. Little could he have realised that, in 1987, he would be elected a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, and become president of the Colchester and District Centre in 1988.

He and Barbara were married at St John's in 1963, and moved to their first house in Oadby, where they got involved in St Peter's. They were to be blessed with two children, Simon and Joanna, and later four grandchildren.

More than 30 years ago, Mark, Barbara, Simon, and Joanna moved to Braiswick, in Essex, when Mark was appointed manager in the Midland Bank's area office in Colchester. So began his long and very active involvement in St Leonard's, Lexden: ten years as churchwarden, more than 30 years on the PCC, member of the finance and fabric committees, and a lay minister of the eucharist - a ministry that he carried out with reverence and sensitivity.

Mark also gave generous service to the wider Church, in deanery and in diocese: he was lay chair of the deanery synod for 14 years; and for many years was a member of the diocesan synod, the diocesan pastoral committee, and the Bishop's Council. It was on the diocesan pastoral committee that I first met him in the early 1990s. We soon became good friends: I think we both got a reputation for asking awkward questions. Mark ultimately chaired the pastoral committee - a case of "If you can't beat them, join them." His outstanding service to the diocese was belatedly recognised in 2012, when the Bishop of Chelmsford awarded him the Order of St Cedd.

Blessed is the parish that has someone with Mark's vision and knowledge of the wider Church. It is thanks to people such as Mark that St Leonard's, Lexden, is the outward-looking church it is today.

But his sympathies and interests were very wide: he served as secretary of the Braiswick Residents' Association, and on the national committee of the HSBC Pensioners' Association, and sang for many years with Colchester Choral Society.

He had planned his thanksgiving service down to the last detail. For the reading he chose the prologue to St John's Gospel, the traditional Gospel for Christmas Day. He wrote: "This is my favourite Bible passage, and sums up what I believe. I have always found the verse 'He came unto his own and his own received him not' to be very moving. Presumably it refers to Jesus's fellow countrymen, but I always felt it sums up our inadequacies as Christians in that we do not measure up to God's standards by a long way."

Those of us who were privileged to know Mark thank God for his inspiring example: his generous and sacrificial service to the Church; his love and devotion as a husband, father, grandfather, and father-in-law; and, not least, his deep trust and faith in God in prosperity and in adversity. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

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