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26 August 2016

Canon Alan Billings writes:

FURTHER to your obituary of the Rt Revd John Garton (Gazette, 12 August): we first met when I was a member of Archbishop Robert Runcie’s Com­mis­sion on Urban Priority Areas, from 1983 until 1985. I stayed with John and his wife, Pauline, in their Coventry vicarage, while gathering informa­tion that would inform the Com­­mission’s report, Faith in the City. He was thoughtfully and deeply com­­mitted to urban ministry.

When John became Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, he ap­­pointed me to a job there, because he wanted to help a new generation of ordinands to understand what Faith in the City was saying to the Church and nation. He encouraged me to start the Sheffield project to bring ordinands, who already had a theology degree, to work out what applied theology meant in practice in a tough urban setting.

John Packer, a former tutor at Ripon College and later Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, supported us in setting up the project in his parish, the Manor. Richard Atkinson, now Bishop of Bedford, was the first to supervise the programme. Veronica Hardstaff, a Sheffield councillor, was the first chair of the support group.

All were firmly convinced that the Church of England could main­tain credibility only if it took seriously the social, economic, and intellectual forces that were shaping Britain in the late 20th century. Without that, ministry and mission — including evangelism — would have only limited success.

John Garton believed that this Anglican tradition was under threat in the modern Church. His work at Cuddesdon, and the Sheffield pro­gramme, was a pioneering attempt at that time to keep the tradition alive.

Canon Vincent Strudwick adds: At Cuddesdon, the Rt Revd John Garton’s strategic gifts were called on to do something about the his­toric barriers separating the Oxford theological colleges from each other. The church authorities had some­thing like the Cambridge Federation in mind, but John knew that that was a bridge too far.

He came up with the Oxford Part­nership in Theological Educa­tion and Training, a network to build closer links between the three Anglican colleges and the St
Albans/Oxford course. From central lectures linked with the university, to student placements in each other’s colleges, and “officer in at­­tend­ance” seats for staff on govern­ing bodies, significant col­lab­ora­tion developed, enhanced by the in­­clusion of Regents Park and West­minster College.

This strategic plan, carried out with his self-effacing charm, laid important foundations upon which others were to build later.

John Garton was an outstanding leader and a warm friend to so many.


The Rt Revd Christopher Hill writes:

YOUR obituary of Canon Gwynn ap Gwilym (Gazette, 19 August) high­lights Gwynn’s passionate but scholarly commitment to the Welsh language and culture, and his wide ecumenical sympathies. At his funeral at Eglwys Dewi Sant on 10 August, this English bishop was deeply moved to be able to attend the properly Welsh service, includ­ing Salm (psalm) 121, in Gwyn’s own metrical Welsh version from the Hebrew. At the service, I met a number of Welsh ecumenical friends again.

On the governing board of the Conference of Euro­pean Churches, Gwynn was a wise confidant, and a good friend to its present president. His ecumenical friendships were Europe-wide.


The Rt Revd John Flack writes:

FURTHER to your obituary of the Rt Revd Maqbul Caleb (Gazette, 12 August): his curacy in St Albans diocese (1958-61) was in St Cuth­bert’s, Rye Parke, Hoddesdon, where I was an older teenager, con­sidering the possibility of ord­ination. Maqbul nurtured my vocation and offered me much guidance and support, both then and later. I have been grateful to him ever since.

He was much loved in the artisan parish, and universally known as Fr Mac. He found the damp cold in the winter hard to cope with, and received many pairs of knitted gloves and socks.

I give thanks for a notable priest and bishop, who influenced many young people, and who served the Anglican Communion with dis­tinc­tion.

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