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20 January 2017

The Revd Peter Kettle writes:

THE photograph on Oswald Clark’s General Synod election address in 1980 pictures him cuddl­ing a cat. That was my first experi­ence of him when I was the newly appointed vicar of the parish where his family had wor­shipped since the early 1930s. His father was a late ordinand, and served in the parish; his two brothers became priests, and a cousin, Alan Clark, went over to Rome and be­­came Bishop of East Anglia.

Oswald Clark (Obituary, 6 Jan­uary) had come to the vicarage to discuss his own ministry as Reader, but was immediately and happily distracted by my cat.

His ministry as a Reader in the parish was much appreciated. His sermons were always models of clarity, proclamation, and encour­agement; his leading of worship was inspiring, emanating as it did from the depths of his Prayer Book Catholic spirituality.

His counsel on matters ecclesi­astical was as readily available to the PCC as it was to the General Synod. I remember, as a young and inex­perienced incumbent, saying more than once: “We are, of course, grate­ful to Mr Clark for helping us out of this procedural difficulty.”

Of course, he made his feelings known where necessary, and, when the headstrong new vicar moved the chairs around, he remonstrated that I had moved the seat that he usually occupied when in the con­gregation, because “I like to sit where my mother sat. I am put out – I can’t help it!”

When I resigned to take a break from public ministry and consider my future, he was kindness itself in offering assistance to find other forms of ministry which might help hold me in the Church. I did notfeel that I wanted to take them up, but we remained in warm contact over the years.

The last time we met, at his “other” church of St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, he exclaimed: “My former vicar!” He was then nearly 90, and it was moving to see him still in good heart. When I enquired whether there would be any more letters to the Church Times, he described himself as “a volcano that they all think is extinct — but I’m not, and still liable to explode.”

May he rest in peace.

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