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Recollections: Canon Wilfrid Browning

19 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. We were all enjoy­­ing the experience so much that 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; I owe to Wilfrid a great debt of gratitude for that.

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