12 May 2017

The Revd Peter Binns writes:

Further to your obituary of Canon Wilfrid Browning (Gazette, 7 and 21 April), he founded the Oxford NSM course, on which I was a member of the first cohort of ordinands from 1972-75, and after ordination, a member of its supervisory board. As the course was not accredited, we were asked if we wished to continue. As we were all enjoying the experience so much, we agreed to continue in good faith, and the course was finally adopted by the Oxford University Department for Extramural Studies.

Wilfrid proved to be an exceptionally good organiser, and the programme of lectures, weekends and residential courses was prepared long in advance. Wilfrid’s lectures on the New Testament were brilliantly presented, interesting, and stimulating. In these sessions, and in the other areas of theology, we were invited to look at things in a different way, which was both challenging and exciting.

Wilfrid looked after us all with his quiet firmness, but with great understanding, knowing that most of us had full-time jobs, and were studying in our spare time. He created a happy atmosphere, with much fun and resultant camaraderie, especially during the weekends in Oxford, and the summer residential periods, and all this proved to be very motivating. I remember that we tended to write longer weekly essays than had been envisaged when the course was set up.

I always felt that Wilfrid was extremely shrewd, and understood us all completely, including the desire of some of us to escape for a beer on frequent occasions during the summer residence. He was exceptionally good at remembering people’s names, even if he had not seen them for several years.

Those three years were an experience which I shall never forget. Wilfrid managed to transform our rather nervous and uncertain beginning into growing confidence, and complete enjoyment, through his support and love, and also through his vision of a type of ministry that would enrich the Church of England.

It enabled me to continue to teach French and also to become a priest, and I owe to Wilfrid a great debt of gratitude for that.

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