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Obituary: THE REVD PHILIP BROWNLESS

by
17 October 2014

Correspondents write:
THE Revd Philip Paul Stanley Brownless, who died on 7 September, aged 95, enjoyed a varied life, and his conversation was strewn with anecdotes from mule-training to sailing adventures. Committed to serving God from boyhood, he was ordained in 1948, the same year as he married Isla Forbes, and moved to a large working-class parish in Southend-on-Sea.

During the Second World War, Philip had served in the North African desert, and behind enemy lines in the Far East, before completing his theological training at Ridley College, Cambridge.

In 1954, in his early thirties, he moved into education, with the encouragement of his bishop and his archdeacon, subsequently becoming headmaster of a boys' preparatory school, Lambrook - a superb match for Philip and Isla's combined abilities and spiritual wisdom. Lambrook flourished under their leadership.

In 1971, Philip went back into parish life as Rector of Heckfield, Mattingley, and, in due course, Rotherwick in Hampshire, uniting all three parishes seamlessly under one PCC. A healing ministry started, ecumenical conversations took place across the deanery, and Lent courses in church grew with lively congregational discussion and questions. The rural ministry became a subject that he spoke on at clergy conferences in the 1970s and '80s.

Retiring to Birdham at 65, Philip and Isla were to find much work ahead of them. With an Evangelical background, Philip got involved with whatever he could across the Chichester diocese, and healing services took place in the cathedral. Alpha courses were started, often in the couple's home; parishes near by found his support both in front of and behind scenes invaluable; and at various points he effectively ran two or three parishes.

Philip and Isla continued to sail to Holland every summer, come rain or shine, and were fully involved in local life, be it the arts group, music in church, lecturing at the yacht club, and woodwork. Tea parties, lunch parties, dinner parties - all happened at the Hornpipe, their retirement house; laughter ricocheted around the walls; there was always "something going on". Meanwhile, Philip's wartime memories were recorded and used, often in their entirety (together with Isla's superb proof-reading), by a military historian, Robert Lyman.

But a huge task was waiting just around the corner: reconciliation with Japanese veterans from the Second World War. With the Burma Campaign Fellowship Group, he visited both Japan and Nagaland (in north-east India), together with other veterans in their eighties and nineties. They hugely enjoyed friendships with veterans from the UK, Japan, and Nagaland, and also forged links with others of different mindsets back in the UK.

A stroke in 2002 curtailed Philip's sailing and driving, but not the gardening, the involvement in parish life, the reading, the daily walks around the yacht harbour, and the parties. His ability to relate to anyone, and to enjoy all contact with people, and his desire to serve God in whatever way was open to him were paramount until the day he died.

A thanksgiving service for Philip's life will be held at Birdham Church, Chichester, on 21 October at 11 a.m.

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