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Obituary: The Revd David Howell

15 December 2017

Prebendary Colin Randall writes:

THE Revd David Howell, who died on 11 November, aged 88, was a most remarkable man, the thrust of whose ministry was in the area of health and healing.

Ordained in Lichfield, in 1959, to a curacy in West Bromwich, he told how on visiting an ill person one day, he decided he should do as recommended by St James, and anoint them with oil. So he got some from home, and did exactly that. At the time, that was definitely not mainstream; he was one of the pioneers in this field.

His curacy in West Bromwich ended when he became priest of the neighbouring parish St Paul’s, Golds Hill, which his persevering and prayerful work saved from closure. After ten years, he moved for a further decade to St John’s, Deptford, in south-east London, where, along with his usual ministry, he found himself having to oversee major building works.

In due course, David became the Chaplain and Director at Crowhurst Home of Healing, where he not only influenced and assisted many, but also taught and preached around the country. He was married for 27 years to Madeline, and, some time after she died, he briefly became the Director of the Churches’ Council for Health and Healing. In due course, he married again, to Elsie, whom he had known for some years. When she moved to Somerset, he became for eight years honary adviser of health and healing for the diocese of Bath & Wells.

That last task was a challenge, as he needed to bring wisdom and sound theology to a function that does not always attract people with those abilities. But David’s extraordinary gifts of prayer, patience, insight, and immense pastoral skills were more than the appointing committee could have hoped for. He helped parishes of all traditions to see that healing was a natural and normal part of the gospel.

His biblical knowledge, while worn lightly, was immense, and he could always explain why and how healing was part of the Church’s ministry, and gently refute those who said it was not of the Gospel, or of their own tradition.

He and Elsie, even after their “official” retirement in 2001, separately and together taught and preached about the healing ministry. Elsie is a longstanding Baptist minister, and they both lived the truth that much ministry is irrelevant to denomination. Three years ago, in St John’s, Wellington, they celebrated a century of ordained ministry between them.

David had a wide range of other interests, from steam trains to English church music, and architecture. He gave lectures and led tours, many on architecture, for his local University of the Third Age. Perhaps the greatest tribute to him is that Elsie has so far received more than 400 cards and letters since his death. He had had Parkinson’s Disease for some years. Surely the trumpets sounded loud at his departure from this life.

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