Dr Marius Carney writes:
TRAVEL and hospitality were the two great animating forces of
the priesthood of Canon Geoffrey Evans, who died on 4 April, aged
80. He had been born on the feast of the Assumption, and died at
After studying at St Michael's, Llandaff, he was ordained deacon
in 1958, and priest in 1959. He served his early years of ministry
in the parish of Llandaff North, and it was here that his travels
began. Just 15 years after the end of the war, Geoffrey organised
reconciliation and friendship exchanges with a Lutheran parish in
Germany, on one occasion chartering an entire aircraft to transport
In 1967, his bishop sent him on mission work to Guyana, where he
spent six years setting up mission stations, and travelling between
them by motorboat. There were no modern amenities, and Geoffrey had
to embrace a hardy simplicity of life which would stay with
An interest in Late Antiquity and Byzantine church history drew
Geoffrey to the Chaplaincy of Smyrna with Bornova (Izmir, Turkey)
He was Archdeacon of the Aegean and the Danube from 1978 until
Geoffrey loved his time in Izmir, where he made many lifelong
friends. The diverse congregation included the last few members of
long-established Levantine merchant families, and service personnel
from the NATO base. Each year, Geoffrey would lead pilgrimages to
the Holy Land. They frequently comprised as many as two or three
Geoffrey's love of table and discussion enabled him to develop
ecumenical friendships across all Christian Churches in Turkey. He
was regularly received in the various Orthodox Patriarchiates.
Alongside the official tasks of helping with the annual
pilgrimage to Mary's House in Ephesus, visits of Archbishops Coggan
and Carey, receiving Pope John Paul II, and organising the
commemoration of the 1200th anniversary of the Second Council of
Nicaea in Iznik, he formed a strong supportive friendship with the
Syrian Orthodox community of the Tur Abdin in Eastern Turkey.
Then, as now, this community was suffering active and ongoing
persecution. Geoffrey and his congregation offered solidarity and
prayerful support. This was widely recognised, and honoured by the
award of a Lambeth MA in 1994. In his citation, Archbishop Carey
highlighted "your courageous ecumenical work in Turkey and . . .
your ministry to refugees during the Gulf War".
Appointed to All Saints', Rome, in 1994, Geoffrey found the
transition uncomfortable. His vision for the chaplaincy was to
throw open the doors of the church and let in the air. This proved
controversial. He held art exhibitions and a fashion show in the
nave, and gave hospitality to a small and poor migrant Romanian
Orthodox congregation, who worshipped in the crypt. He temporarily
housed refugees in another crypt.
Through the Porvoo Agreement, he welcomed women priests to the
chaplaincy. Although his meals were often simple bowls of pasta and
a glass of wine - as he liked to point out, in Rome the wine was
cheaper than the water - Geoffrey offered company, support, and
friendship to all who came: pilgrims, expats of 40 years in Rome,
grand ladies with titles, pilgrims, students, the divorced, and
After a brief time as Chaplain in Moscow, in retirement Geoffrey
returned to Turkey, serving the British Embassy community in
Ankara. He paid great attention to creating community, both within
and beyond the Embassy, and also to preparing the Sunday liturgy,
and went out of his way to pull in many wonderful musicians to
enhance the celebrations.
He also worked tirelessly with refugees and asylum-seekers,
finding many the basics: clothes, shelter, a doctor, a meal. He was
also an often feisty advocate, never afraid to ruffle feathers.
When Geoffrey finally stepped down from active ministry in 2011,
he was awarded the OBE for his years of service to the English
community in Turkey.
During the last two years of his life, he embarked on many more
travels by land and sea, including a pilgrimage to the Orthodox
monasteries of Northern Romania.