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24 March 2017

Vision: Canon Henry Evans

Vision: Canon Henry Evans

Aileen Orme writes:
EVERYONE has a story to tell about Fr Henry Evans (Obituary, 10 March); this is ours.

Henry and Ruth were our second parents: they opened their hearts and their home to us. We were their children whom they cherished and gave such happiness and fun. This included holidays, such as London, Launde Abbey, the Goddards’ family house at Wistow, the Isle of Man, and Hunstanton; not forget­ting how he cajoled us to help build our own church on the top of a hill.

We all owe him an immeasurable amount of gratitude; our lives have been shaped by him, and for that we will be eternally grateful.

Brian Small adds: Fr Henry Evans came to St Mary’s, Knighton, in 1973, and a very happy and suc­cessful incumbency it was for both Henry and parishioners.

There were two principal reasons for this. One was Henry’s talent for getting people to work for the church, and he did this by making them believe — rightly — that they were doing something worth while for the church, that they were ap­­preci­ated, and Henry made a point of thanking them.

At St Mary’s, Henry was fortun­ate to have had several able parish­ioners to help in his ministry. One was the treasurer, John Castleman, a leading Leicester accountant, who was involved in an episode that demonstrated Henry’s skill in chair­ing meetings. At one annual paro­chial church meeting, when John had finished presenting the parish accounts, Henry said, “We shall now have a few moments of silent prayer, after which, if anyone still has any ques­tions, John will try to answer them.” Note he said: “If anyone still has any questions.” Of course no one had; no one wanted to make what would have been a public admission that their own power of prayer was inefficacious.

Henry’s good fortune came to light with his organist, Colin Holy­oake, who always chose the hymns and music. Henry was a fervid Welsh rugby supporter. So, at Sunday-morning service after the England v. Wales match, if England had won, Colin would play Cwm Rhondda in a minor key. How many times during Henry’s ten years at Knighton did Colin do this? Only once. And, as Henry with Welsh mag­­nanimity observed, “Once too often.”

The other principal reason for Henry’s success, which must be emphasised, was his wife, beloved Ruth, whose loyal, industrious, and loving support throughout his ministry was the sure foundation upon which his achievements were based.

Canon Brian Davis adds: Henry’s ten years as Warden of Launde Abbey are rightly seen as a turning-point in the fortunes of that place. Many of us, the Friends of Launde, had begun to wonder whether Launde was viable — indeed, whether it had a future at all. Then Henry came along, with a small group of friends and transformed it.

He came with a vision of a Re­­treat and Conference Centre that had at its heart a praying Christian community that provided welcome and hospitality. He said he and Ruth had always hoped one day to be part of a Christian community. He showed that Launde was indeed viable, that it was a great asset, a wonderful gift to the diocese and the wider church, and so it has proved to be.

He had — what is rare among us clergy — both a deep spirituality (he was truly a man of prayer) and a sound business sense, able to raise the funds necessary to enable Launde to thrive and pay its way.

During Henry’s time at Launde, I often brought groups from St Andrew’s, Countesthorpe, where I was Vicar. Being able to share in the life of the community at Launde for a weekend gave us a taste of what a Christian community could be and should be, and helped us to return to the parish inspired and spiritually strengthened.

I will always think of Henry as the “Saviour of Launde”. We can all rejoice that he had a long retire­­ment, saw Launde continue to thrive, and lived to see the extensive re­­furb­­ishment five years ago.

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