Obituary: THE REVD JAMES ENGLAND COTTER

by
25 April 2014

jeremy grayson

Spirituality man: the Revd Jim Cotter, first Hon. Secretary of the Gay Christian Movement

Spirituality man: the Revd Jim Cotter, first Hon. Secretary of the Gay Christian Movement

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 tunes.

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 covered.

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.

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