Obituary: THE REVD IVAN JOHN DAVOLL

by
25 April 2014

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Mr Adrian Greenwood writes:

THE Revd Snowy Davoll (so called because of his very white hair when he was a child), who died on 22 March, aged 81, was born in Nuneaton, the younger of two brothers. Leaving school at 15, he became a painter and decorator, and served two years of National Service in the Royal Navy. At the age of 19, he married his childhood sweetheart, Sybil, and they had two sons, Andrew and David.

Converted through a Billy Graham crusade, Snowy trained as a Reader in the parish of Bedworth, where he had a special ministry in youth work. This led him to train as one of the first ever professional youth workers, and he came to Bermondsey in 1967, to be the Senior Youth Worker at Cambridge University Mission (now the Salmon Youth Centre), where he lived on the premises.

During his 16 years as a youth worker, he was known for his boundless strength and energy, his zest for life, his great love for the young people, and his down-to-earth and practical faith in the living God. During that time, he influenced hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. There are many in Bermondsey, and many who have left the area, who will testify to all this.

Through the scheme of resident volunteers, he also inspired many who entered full-time Christian ministry, including the newly translated Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock.

Recognising that young people are raised in families, he moved in 1983 to found his own charity, Bermondsey Open Door, in order to work with the families of those whom he had worked with as a youth worker in the wider community. During this time, he and Sybil "lived by faith", not receiving a regular salary. At the instigation of Ted Roberts, Vicar of St James and St Anne's, they occupied the former St James's Vicar-age in Thurland Road as the base for their work. (Sybil and Snowy had first met Tedin Bedworth). Snowy did a bit of paint-ing and decorating to help pay the bills.

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Recognising that church culture was alien to many working-class people, in 1988, Snowy was ordained by Bishop Peter Hall, in a memorable service at St James's, which he had attended since his arrival in Bermondsey. This was the first ordination in a pioneering new scheme to recruit ministers from non-traditional backgrounds, train them on the job, and license them to serve in the area they knew best among the people they knew best - reaching people whom the "professional" clergy did not. Two other local working men from St James's followed in his footsteps.

Ordination introduced Snowy to a much wider range of people, and he was much in demand for baptisms, weddings, and funerals. In 1993, he became Associate Minister at St Anne's, and received a clergy stipend for five years, just long enough to qualify him for a pension from the Church Commissioners. This in turn enabled him to move to a Church Commissioners' property in Rotherhithe, where he ministered at Holy Trinity for a further five years, before moving to full retirement in Credenhill, just outside Hereford. There he served the village and the parish until his sudden and unexpected death.

Throughout his adult life, he was supported by the loyal, loving, and equally self-giving Sybil, his wife for 61 years, and also by a special group of sponsors during his ordination training and ministry. He was a man of immense human strength and energy, who lived life simply and to the full. Snowy was a modern-day Nehemiah, combining practical hard work in the service of others with a deep faith and knowledge of the scriptures.

He has sown the seed for much fruit in God's Kingdom, demonstrating that true fulfilment is found in denying self, taking up the cross of Christ, and following him in service of God and neighbour. More than 350 people attended his memorial service.

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