The Rt Revd Hewlett Thompson writes:
THE Ven. Richard Gilpin died from prostate cancer on 1 May, aged 76, after a decade of retirement in his beloved Devon, where his life and ministry were spent. I choose three words to describe his time as archdeacon: calm, efficient, and humble. He knew the diocese of Exeter through and through, but never took on the post of defender of past traditions.
Three years at Lichfield Theological College equipped Richard to preach plain sermons, much appreciated in his long association with the cathedral, as Prebendary and, later, Sub Dean, a non-residentiary office held as a wise senior among the prebendaries.
The core of his ministry was 18 years as Vicar of Tavistock, the ancient Devon town 12 miles north of Plymouth. He had been curate there before a short incumbency outside Barnstaple. His quality was evident because Tavistock wanted him back, one of the last of Bishop Robert Mortimer’s appointments.
Twelve years later, on my first appearance at the church, the verger with rod and churchwardens with staves were standing to attention outside, and the congregation within was ready to rise to its feet. Richard wisely knew Tavistock’s need and was himself glad of the gentle push to greater informality which came from giving Joy, my wife, into the wardens’ hands, while I chatted my way up a side aisle with the verger.
A testing year for Richard and Marian came in 1990. Richard was needed to be Director of Ordinands and Adviser in Vocations, but, for a start, he had to combine that work with one more year at Tavistock to round off the succession of curates, whose training he had overseen.
They moved to Exeter, and Richard took smoothly to ministry from another viewpoint, a share in central diocesan responsibility. It was a time when changes were essential. Questionnaires were going out on ministry appraisal; Richard was on hand to collate replies and deliver their messages. He was in a helpful position as the elected chair of the House of Clergy.
The Totnes archdeaconry has one leg among the 100,000 people of Torbay, and the other rejoices in the rich valleys overshadowed by Dartmoor. The parishes were confident that their archdeacon and his wife cared. Their hospitality said that. The clergy knew Richard was of the parish-priest mould himself, and would present their situations to the diocesan leadership, clerical and lay.
At the news of his illness and death, I overflow with thanks that such a calm, efficient, and humble man was raised up for the work given him. Anglican spirituality and pastoral sensitivity were seen in one of their best manifestations in Richard Gilpin.