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Obituary: Canon Michael Robert Carol Swindlehurst

13 October 2017

A compassionate, prayerful priest: Canon Michael Swindlehurst

A compassionate, prayerful priest: Canon Michael Swindlehurst

A correspondent writes:

THE Revd Michael Swindlehurst, who died on 7 August, aged 87, after a succession of heart attacks, had been born and brought up in Lon­don with the blessing of a loving family life. He left a note saying, “I thank God for the many oppor­tunities of service given to me and for the gifts of his grace lavished upon me.”

After primary school, he won a place at Alleyn’s School, Dulwich. From there, a state scholarship en­­abled him to go to Worcester Col­lege, Oxford, where he read modern history. In 1952, he entered the First Division of the Home Civil Service, and served under Peter Thorney­croft in the Board of Trade until the autumn of 1961, when he resigned to train for the priesthood at Cud­desdon, under Robert Runcie.

He was ordained at Fareham at Michaelmas 1963, and priested at Portsmouth Cathedral the following year. He served his title in the parish of Havant, and held a second curacy in the parish of Hellesdon, Norwich. He was instituted and inducted to the crown living of All Saints with St James, Brightlingsea, early in De­­cember 1969, and stayed there for 25 years.

During his time there, he became known to most people who lived in the town, whether they were churchgoing or not, by his humility, humour, and compassion. He was active among and caring of the whole com­munity. He fought against the closure of All Saints’, and services are still held there today. In 1995, he supported the hugely growing op­­position to the export of veal to Europe through Brightlingsea port — known as the Battle of Bright­lingsea. Not all agreed with some of his views, but there would be none to say that he was unreasonable or dogmatic.

On Ascension Day, he would bless the harvest of the sea, by holding a service on a boat with local fisher­men and his con­grega­­tion. He was Chaplain to the Mis­sions to Seamen. He was made Rural Dean of St Osyth and, in 1989, became an Hon. Canon of Chelms­ford Cathed­ral.

On retiring at Easter 1995, he moved to Saffron Walden, where he assisted at St Mary’s, and at churches in villages near by, until ill health brought an end to his active ministry early in 2017.

During his 23 years in Saffron Walden, he became a much loved and familiar figure.

He led or joined numerous organisations, including the United Na­­tions Association, Am­­nesty Inter­national, the Historical Society, Fry Art Gallery, and Saffron Walden Mu­­seum. He was hugely supportive of the many and various musical and literary events in the town, es­­pecially at the new Saffron Hall and at St Mary’s.

He cared about the earth, and our wastefulness of its resources, and was known to have taken the same bag for his bread 17 times to the bakers.

Michael prepared his funeral service in every detail himself, and said that “the point of the service is hand me back to God; and we should start by listening to what God has to say to us”: the service started in prayer­ful silence before 500 people. He leaves a sister, Ann, and nephews and nieces.

The Rector of Saffron Walden, Canon David Tomlinson, said of Michael that he was a wonderful pastor, a great friend, and a com­passionate, prayerful priest who exemplified a lively, lovely holiness. We could be confident that Mi­­chael’s love and longing for God were now fulfilled in eternity.

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