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Canon David Charles St Vincent Welander

23 September 2016

The Revd Tony Wilcox writes:

CANON David Welander, who died on 12 August, aged 91, was an educator, pastor, ecumenist, evan­gelist, and historian. After six years as a college tutor and 21 years in parish life, he was appointed in 1975 Canon Residentiary of Glou­cester.

Given the care of the cathedral library, he carried through an extensive programme of conserva­tion. He developed a particular interest in the history, art, and architecture of the cathedral, writing three books, and reading and travelling widely to further his knowledge.

In 1980, he was asked to devise and erect a permanent ex­­hibition in the choir gallery in celebration of the 1300th annivers­ary of the foundation of the first monastic house on the site in 681.

In 1982, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He lectured regularly for the Depart­ment for Continuing Education of the University of Bristol, and, as a lecturer of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Soci­eties, in the UK and around the world. He gave Lent and Advent courses in deanery gatherings. On retiring to Wiltshire in 1991, he completed Gloucester Cathedral: Visitor’s handbook.

David Charles St Vincent Welander was born on 22 January — St Vincent’s Day — in 1925, the youngest of the five children of Sven Welander of Uppsala, Sweden, and Georgina Panter. In his teens, David’s love of boxing left him with his stronger left arm paralysed; nevertheless, he completed his education at Unthank College, Norwich, and London University, taking his BD in 1947.

Too young to be ordained, he spent a postgraduate year at Toronto University, becoming a “prairie preacher”, often travelling from township to township on horseback. During this time, his arm revived, and he returned home for ordination at Norwich in 1948. After a brief curacy, he returned in 1950 to his old theological college as Chaplain and Tutor, during the principalship of Donald Coggan, who had overseen his studies.

In 1956, he became Vicar of Iver, in Buckinghamshire, where he initi­ated a Family Service, youth activ­ities, and a stewardship campaign, which trebled the church’s income. Parishioners recall “a popular and highly conscientious parish priest”, always ready to take time with individuals to teach and encourage.

In 1962, he became Vicar of Christ Church, Cheltenham, and was appointed Rural Dean of Chelt­enham in 1973. He served as the Mayor’s Chaplain, and as deputy director of the Samaritans in the town.

Christ Church became a training-ground for curates, frequently of quite a different background from David’s. They found a man who expected the diary to be full, but was also prepared to give responsibility, encouragement, and support, allow­ing them to develop their own gifts and ministries. This went alongside a strong emphasis on lay training. By 1970, Christ Church under David’s leadership was regarded as a flagship for the faith in the diocese.

Throughout his ministry, David had a deep concern for Christian unity. In Toronto, he joined stud­ents for a course in the Early Chris­tian Fathers, and as a curate he met younger clergy of the Roman-Catholic pro-cathedral in Norwich. In Cheltenham, he read the Greek New Testament with members of the Prinknash Benedictine com­munity; he also had a class of more than 30 in Cheltenham learning New Testament Greek.

As chairman of the Cheltenham Council of Churches, he organised an ecumenical experiment — a Christian Forum — involving Christians of all traditions and non-Christians, in 70 house groups meeting over a period of three months, and culminating in meet­ings every night for a week in Cheltenham Town Hall. The even­ings began with youth orchestras playing, then an hour-long lecture on some aspect of Christian doc­trine by a distinguished speaker, concluding with questions to the speaker.

In a similar format, based in Christ Church, was “A New Way of Life”, a parish mission in March 1971. This led to a remarkable growth of the young people’s discipleship group, which produced several ordinands and others in various Christian ministries.

Canon Welander served on the General Synod for 15 years from its inception in 1970; and on commit­tees and working parties. For 12 years, he was a member of the Bishops’ committee for the inspec­tion of theological colleges, acting as senior inspector. He was loyal to his Evangelical roots while always seeking to understand people of other traditions. The influence of his theological tutor and lifelong friend, F. W. Dillistone, never left him.

David’s colleagues at Gloucester Cathedral recall his pastoral gifts and heart, the learning lightly worn, the thoughtfulness of his sermons, the wisdom of his counsel, the warmth of heart, and the glint of humour in his eyes if ever proceed­ings in Chapter became burden­some.

Apart from the intense grief in 2002 at suddenly losing his beloved wife, Nancy Stanley, whom he had married in 1952, retirement in Sherston brought 25 happy years. He leaves five children, eight grand­children, and five great-grand­children.

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