The Very Revd Derek Hole writes:
BORN in Brynmenyn, a village near Bridgend, Henry Thomas Platt Evans, who died on 28 January 2017, aged 88, was proud of his Welsh ancestry, and a Welsh rugby fan. His parents were keen Presbyterians, and Henry and his sister, Ruth, were nurtured in the Christian faith. Two of their uncles were Presbyterian ministers, and two were Anglican clerics.
After Bridgend Grammar School, Henry undertook National Service. In 1946, he trained as an ordinary seaman in Plymouth and Dartmouth. Two years later, he went to Selwyn College, Cambridge, to study theology. From there he went to Lincoln Theological College.
In 1953, Henry was ordained to a title at St Barnabas’s, Manor Park, in the East End of London. After six months, the Bishop allowed Henry to marry Ruth Bayliss, whom Henry had met six years earlier at his uncle’s vicarage.
In 1956, Henry became the first Priest-in-Charge of St Luke’s, a new parish of 15,000 people on the northern edge of Leicester; it comprised the Stadium, Stocking Farm, and Mowmacre Hill Estate. The diocese provided a new vicarage and church hall.
Before long, it was a new church building that was needed. Henry asked Henry Goddard, a descendant of the architect who designed St James the Greater, Leicester, whether it might be possible to build a church with voluntary labour. The architect agreed, provided they had an experienced foreman. Five years later, in April 1966, thanks to the skills of many volunteers and donations, the present church with tower was consecrated by the Bishop of Leicester, in the presence of Princess Margaret.
It was from this time that Henry was summed up succinctly: “The first time that someone came to the church, Henry would ask his or her name. The second time, he would welcome them by name and use it at the communion rail. The third time, he would give you a job.”
Henry and Ruth’s children, Jonathan and Caroline, were born during this time.
In 1967, Henry became Rector of St Matthew’s, Stretford, in Manchester. It gave him experience of a different tradition, and proved to be a difficult time for him. One radical idea was to have lady “sidesmen”. In the parish, Henry was instrumental in saving two rows of Victorian terraced houses from demolition. Ruth trained as a teacher and taught at a church school. Henry oversaw the transition of the primary school from aided to controlled status.
A move to St Mary Magdalene with St Guthlac, Knighton, in 1973 led to ten happy and fulfilling years. A parish centre was built and dedicated in 1974, and Ruth became head teacher of St Crispin’s Preparatory School. He became an Hon. Canon of Leicester Cathedral in 1976, a position he kept until his retirement, and was Rural Dean of Christianity South from 1981 until 1983.
In 1983, Bishop Richard Rutt asked Henry to be Warden of Launde Abbey. Another ten busy and fulfilling years followed. After a £200,000 appeal, the derelict stables were converted into more accommodation, and, as the retreat movement grew, so Launde became a national centre for silent retreats, as well as conferences.
The chairman of the Launde Trustees, Canon Brian Davis, said: “There are many of us who feel that it was Henry’s vision, energy, and leadership that secured the future of Launde — the Launde we all enjoy today. His time as Warden established Launde as one of the finest retreat houses in the country.” Henry always acknowledged the support of others.
As Warden, he developed his inherent interest in “spirituality”, giving spiritual counsel when needed. After retirement in 1993, he continued this listening ministry; he said that it gave him a quiet and humbling fulfilment.
Henry and Ruth moved to Clarendon Park. Ruth died in 2005, after 51 years of marriage. In 2011, Henry joined a friend, Anne Laurence, in Evington; she cared for him until his death. His funeral was in St James the Greater, Leicester.
Henry’s life and ministry reflected the gospel, in which he passionately believed, and which drew people to him. He has now entered into the joy of his Lord, where, we pray, he rests in peace.