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10 February 2017

The Revd Denise Herbert writes:

YOUR obituary of the Very Revd Robert Jeffery (Gazette, 6 January), reminded me of his travelling the parish of St Andrew’s, Old Heading­ton, on his bicycle. I was a parish­ioner and often baby-sat for the Jefferys, while I was a nurse and midwife in Oxford.

I suspect the idea of hoisting up his cassock and putting it into the basket was copied from the Cowley Fathers, whom I seem to recall doing this. Bob was very fond of the Fathers, and had a great interest in the writings of Fr Christopher Bryant SSJE, in particular; he also wrote about Richard Meux Benson SSJE, who founded the Society in 1866. Bob’s link with SSJE contin­ued in England up to time when only St Edward’s House in London was left and was then sold.

Bob kept a strong link with the Society in America, and also with the Order of the Holy Cross Anglican-Benedictine community in West Park, New York; he visited them several times after Ruth, his wife, had died. One wondered if he might join them. His links with religious communities continued very much into his retirement; he visited the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor regularly, and worshipped with them in their chapel. He was also the Vice-Chair of Ripon Col­lege, Cuddesdon, and was a good friend of Bishop John Garton, who had been its Principal. When Bishop John was ill and dying, Bob visited him regularly; I would guess he was a great support to Bishop John and his sons.

When Dean of Worcester Cath­ed­ral, Bob arranged for the choir to visit South Africa at the beginning of January 1993; it was a highly suc­cessful tour, starting at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town. They were the first English Cathedral choir to go there after the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid. Cathedrals were of great interest, and I think it was after his retire­ment from Christ Church that Bob decided to visit and research them around the world, and went to Australia and the US.

When I approached Bob about my thoughts of studying theology, in his gruff voice all he said was, “Cuddesdon is a good place to be.” I went — and eventually was ordained deacon at Worcester Cathedral, with letters dimissory from Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and Ruth and Bob laid on a party for me at the Deanery.

I am grateful to Bob, as I imagine many people are, for his great wis­dom, his excellent cooking, and his warm friendship. This past year or so he phoned me fairly regularly about his ailing health, to consult “his nurse”, as he put it, and said that the Anima Christi — which he wrote about — was the best thing to ponder at that stage of his life. It is hoped, however, that his translation of The Imitation of Christ, published by Penguin Classics, will continue to be valued for many years hence.

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