The Very Revd Michael Higggins writes:
THE Revd John Masding, who died on Good Friday, aged 77, after a long illness, was tall and distinguished in appearance, with a kind and genial manner, matched by a distinctive white beard imparting a patriarchal touch.
John cut a figure never to be forgotten by all who met him. His rich and melodious bass tones will be recalled with love and affection in the parishes he served, and in the many bodies in which he played a part in the national Church.
After Moseley Grammar School, John went up to Oxford, to read history at Magdalen College, where he was elected a demy. Ordination training followed at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, and then, in 1965, a curacy in Sutton Coldield.
In 1971, John became Vicar of St Paul’s Hamstead, in Birmingham, a parish of 17,000, from which he retired in 1997. He was convinced of the strength imparted by a long and continuous ministry in one place, and, today, generations of Hamstead people give thanks for the legacy he left, both in their church and in their lives.
Long before the phrase “all-age worship” came into being, John had created a memorable example of it at Hamstead, where visitors invariably came away with a vivid memory of a happy family church, bubbling with life and warmth. John’s public worship was always user-friendly and delivered with great liturgical skill; as a pastor, he was gentle and understanding; he was a constant encourager of others.
A preacher of verve and passion, he could tuck his cassock into his trousers, and ride a bicycle round the church, using it as a visual aid to deliver words that touched all ages, while being equally at home delivering a penetrating pulpit address.
These rhetorical skills were much in evidence in his contributions to synods, committees, and conferences. After retiring from Hamstead, John’s ministry was much valued in the dioceses of Bath & Wells and Bristol, particularly at Christ Church, Bristol City, where he became a trustee.
John’s sense of history gave him great unease about many recent developments in the Church of England. He was concerned about the loss of the freehold, the gradual erosion of private patronage, modern liturgy, and ever-growing bureaucracy. These things led him to become a council member of the Ecclesiastical Law Society, and, with others, he was instrumental in re-establishing the LLM in Canon Law at Cardiff University, a degree he took himself.
He gave much time to advising other clergy who felt that their legal rights were under threat. John was a prominent member of the Prayer Book Society, but his greatest achievement was the founding of the English Clergy Association. He chaired it for many years, directing its vision of upholding “the traditional understanding of the Church’s life and witness”; and many needy clergy have been helped by the Association’s holiday grants. John served for some years on the Court of the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy.
John lived a rich and varied life. His vintage Bentley was often seen in the streets of Birmingham, and he kept a well-stocked cellar, and had a wide circle of friends. In retirement, he was an active member of the Bath and County Club, and its chairman for some years.
Above all, he was a family man. His first wife, Veronica, died in 1989, the mother of Aelfwynn and Miranda, his two married daughters. In 1992, John married Margaret, and she and his daughters survive him. At the time of his death, he had four grandchildren, and five step-grandchildren. He loved and cherished them all.