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Obituary: Francis Trevanion Bassett

15 December 2017

Canon Jeremy Worthen and others write:

FRANCIS BASSETT, Assistant Secretary of the Council for Christian Unity, who died on 18 November, aged 63, would have been astonished at the thought of his obituary’s appearing in the Church Times, which he read carefully every week, to identify items of interest to his colleagues in the staff team at the Council for Christian Unity. He would have been astonished because he did not expect public recognition of any kind for the various forms of service that he undertook, faithfully and cheerfully, as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

For those of us who sat alongside him day by day in Church House, it is hard to imagine the work of the Council without him. He knew it so very well, and had accumulated over the years a knowledge of the Church of England’s ecumenical relations which reached into places that eluded the rest of us. He could readily recall an incident — or retrieve a document — to cast light on an issue that we were dealing with here and now. He also built up many valued relationships with people, including members of ecumenical groups he was involved in supporting, such as the English Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee. His kindness and gentle humour regularly brightened the working day.

It may be hard for those of us who knew him in that context to imagine him working anywhere else, but, in fact, he had a very varied career with the national church institutions. His first post had been Clerical Officer with the Church Commissioners in 1978, a year after he finished his undergraduate studies at Peterhouse College, Cambridge.

In those days, administrative staff were moved around departments regularly, as part of the development process. Francis went from Housing to Pastoral, and then to Stipends Payments. Having spent some time in Estates, he proceeded to Bishoprics/See Houses.

His next move was to the General Synod Office. Synod members from the period recall his activity in organising fringe meetings, and the time he would always make available for them and their concerns. From there, it was a relatively short journey to his many happy years at the Council for Christian Unity.

Through all the changes that he saw, music was a constant presence in Francis’s life. He performed in formal settings as a highly accomplished pianist and organist, serving for many years in that capacity in his local church, St Barnabas’s, Manor Park, where he was also at various points a PCC member, a parish representative, and a deanery-synod representative.

His musical and relational gifts came together when he took on the post of conductor, as he did with the Deansbank Singers, whose weekly rehearsals he led in the chapel at Church House, where he was also a regular worshipper at mid-week services.

His talent for music and comedy had already showed itself in undergraduate performances with the Cambridge University Light Entertainment Society, which included the comedian Andy Hamilton among its members; he was part of a folk-rock band who succeeded in releasing their debut album. Besides listening, playing and conducting, Francis also danced to music. He was a member of a folk-dance club, and would use holidays to spend time dancing with friends.

Friends and family were very important to him, and he spoke warmly to his colleagues about them. He was not someone who dwelt unduly on the past, but he would reminisce from time to time about Chichester, where he had gone to school, and childhood memories of Sussex. He delighted in the gifts of the present, and was grateful for what he had received over many years.

He was sometimes troubled about things happening in the Church and in the world. As someone passionate about the environment and European relations, and who cared very deeply about the Church of England, how could he not be? Yet that did not shake a deep faith in God, and a confidence in God’s purposes, and trust in their final fulfilment.

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