The Revd Malcolm Johnson writes:
JIM COTTER was a wordsmith whose prayers, psalms, and hymns
helped men and women forge a modern spirituality. Some songs were
new, and others were reworked old favourites sung to well-known
Writing and speaking for nearly 50 years, he shared his
spiritual and religious experiences with a large network of people
built up through his work with Cairns, his publishing organisation
begun in the 1980s. This was a personal as well as a public
process, as he described the challenges of being gay and recently
his battle with leukaemia. His prayers in books such as Prayer
in the Day (illustrated by Peter Pelz), Prayer at
Night, and Pilgrim Prayer are modern classics. Nearly
30 other books and pamphlets followed, and he became an editor,
com-piler, and publisher for more than 15 other writers.
Humour played its part in his work, as in the cartoons at the
giving of the Peace in No Thank You, I'm 1662, and Yes
. . . Minister? Patterns of Christian service. Latterly, in
association with the Canterbury Press, a wider range of topics was
Born in 1942 at Stockport, he went to the local Grammar School,
then on to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, of which he later
became chaplain (1974-77). Before that, he had worked in the
Manchester diocese, and then been a Lecturer at Lincoln Theological
College from 1970 to 1973.
The year 1976 was a defining one in his life. The Gay Christian
Movement (now LGCM) was formed, and he became its first honorary
secretary, courageously appearing on a TV programme in 1977,
The Lord'sMy Shepherd and He Knows I'm Gay.His personal
story particularly his boutsof depression (described in
Brainsquall)helped others in a similar position to come to
terms with their life, sexuality, and spirituality.
In the St Albans diocese, he was Associate Vicar of All Saints',
Leavesden, 1977-83, at which time he was Assistant Principal of the
diocesan Ministerial Training Scheme. He much enjoyed teaching, and
for four years from 1982 was Course Director of the St Albans
Ministerial Training Scheme.
In 2001, he moved from Sheffield to Wales, and at Harlech and
Aberdaron made a host of new friends. In 2008, he said that
celebrating the civil partnership of two women was a "day of great
delight and healing", which brought a reprimand from the Archbishop
of Wales. Jim hated confrontation, but commented: "When an
archbishop tells me that, as an ordained member of the Church, I
cannot celebrate and bless a civil partnership in a church, but
that I can argue for a change that would allow that, it frankly
feels both patronising and chilling." Typically, he turned a
negative into a positive by publishing that year The Service of
My Love, which is a useful liturgical and pastoral handbook
for these occasions.
Jim enjoyed travelling, and lectured, conducted retreats, and
broadcast in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
He described his ministry as free-range, one of quiet prayer,
simple hospitality, and thoughtful conversation: sharing meals,
stories, and laughter with friends, and walking the hills, shaping
words, and deepening solitude and simplicity.
The poetry of R. S. Thomas, a predecessor at Aberdaron, inspired
and encouraged Jim, and just before his diagnosis he produced a DVD
of 26 poems with an introduction. Directed by Cecil Rowe,
Etched by Silence makes a fitting memorial to him.
Jim kept his friendships in good repair, which meant that in his
final days in Llandudno he was surrounded by much love and
practical help. He died on 16 April, and the funeral is at
Aberdaron on 1 May at noon. There will be a memorial service in St
Martin-in-the-Fields, in London, on 25 June at 3 p.m.