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Canon Terry Palmer

15 April 2016

The Rt Revd Dominic Walker OGS writes:

CANON Terence Henry James Palmer, who died on Maundy Thursday, aged 81, was a well-known and much loved priest in the diocese of Monmouth. An Englishman by background, he used to recall how he had not been accepted for ordination in the Church of England, but, thankfully, he had been advised to seek ordination in the Church in Wales, where his vocation was recognised, and his priestly ministry became much appreciated.

Terry was born in Bridgewater, and studied at the Unversity at Lampeter and at Oxford, and, while always a dedicated pastor, he was also committed to theological study throughout his life. He enjoyed teaching, and combined being a parish priest with being Director of NSM training, and later training lay eucharistic ministers. Terry frequently responded to readers’ questions in the Church Times with responses that were well researched, simply explained, and full of pastoral wisdom. I often referred to him as the “Church Times agony uncle”.

For 43 years, Terry served in various parishes, and as a rural dean, and a Chapter Canon of St Woolos’s Cathedral. Then, three years after retirement, he volunteered to look after a tough housing estate parish in Newport, with an unhappy history. He immediately endeared himself to the people, bringing a much needed healing touch, and his ministry bore fruit. He cared for them for 11 years, until his deteriorating health and increasing deafness forced him to give up.

Terry had a deep sense of his own priestly vocation, and encouraged others to consider theirs; and many in the Church today owe their vocations to his ministry of encouragement.

Some time after his wife Elizabeth died suddenly, he met and married Kathy, a widow, who gave him much support, and who survives him, together with a son and daughter-in-law, stepson, and two grandchildren.

The Revd Russen Thomas adds: Terry’s pastoral care, his musicianship, his academic expertise, and his concern for accuracy and faithfulness to tradition were all vital elements of his ministry.

We attended St David’s College, Lampeter, together from 1952 to 1955. As freshmen, we made the most of this special time. We had fun writing irreligious ditties and playing with words. We indulged in many activities, ranging from pensive reflection competitions to threats of dips in the pool in the middle of the quad and larking about in birettas and cassocks. Terry stayed at the theological hall at St David’s for a further two years, after which he was ordained deacon in the diocese of Monmouth, and appointed to a curacy at St Hilda’s, Griffithstown. He was then appointed minor canon and parish curate at St Davids Cathedral. From there, Terry went to St Edmund Hall, Oxford, to study for his master’s degree in theology, under Dr David Kelly.

A big challenge that Terry faced during his ministry was supporting the community of a large housing estate, Greenway, close to Rumney, Cardiff. Terry also worked in St Arvans, and latterly was Vicar of Rogiet, where he continued his academic work. One of Terry’s favourite places was his study, where, surrounded by his books, he could immerse himself in scholarship. His ministry included providing training for his fellow clergy.

My children remember him with an erstwhile pipe in his mouth, usually unlit, always in clerical attire, with a friendly word for the little ones, and a chuckle in his voice. Terry had a quick sense of humour. He also had a fine singing voice; he would very easily sight-read and sing unfamiliar alto parts. Terry came to stay with us at St Florence on numerous occasions; we frequently cut it fine when it was time to drive to Kilgetty for him to catch his train home. Terry’s hands would be clasped in prayer for the entire 12-mile journey, while I put my foot down. He never missed his train.

Timing was a key ingredient in another fond memory. Terry was catching the paddle steamer from Hobbs Point, Pembroke Dock; the tide was in, and the sea was rough. The boat was lurching up and down, and the deck was swaying from side to side. It was a deep step down from the quay. “Jump now!” I advised Terry, who needed plenty of encouragement; he responded eventually, and took a leap of faith, eyes closed, with fervent prayers in accompaniment. He landed safely in the arms of the ferryman, and managed to stay on board the right way up, his prayers answered.

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