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Obituary: Canon John Herbert Foskett

03 November 2017

Mental-health services: Canon Foskett with his grandson Wesley, now 12, at his blessing and naming service

Mental-health services: Canon Foskett with his grandson Wesley, now 12, at his blessing and naming service

Canon Andrew Wilson writes:

CANON John Foskett, who died on 6 July, aged 78, was born in Croydon in 1939, and, after studying theology at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, went on to train for the priesthood at Chichester Theological College. After ordination in 1964, he served his title at St John the Baptist, Old Malden, in south-west London, and then became Priest-in-Charge of St John the Evangelist, Kingston upon Thames, while training as a counsellor with the Richmond Fellowship.

In 1975, he became the first full-time chaplain at the Maudsley Hospital, south London, where he remained for 18 years, retiring on health grounds. During this time, John became the pioneer of clinical pastoral education within mental-health provision. Many of us were inspired and encouraged by John to increase research into the vital part spirituality plays in recovery, and to raise awareness and engagement within society and the Church. As long-term hospitalisation was replaced by a move to community care, there was an expectation that support would be forthcoming from faith communities and the voluntary sector. The work continues.

My own introduction to John came when I had an induction placement at the Maudsley, before I began to work in chaplaincy. I experienced John’s warmth and compassion with all comers, but also his encouragement, which he continued to give generously both to mental-health service-users and colleagues. For many of us his book Meaning in Madness (1984) gave us direction and wisdom.

In 2004, he was awarded a Lambeth Master’s degree in recognition of his contribution to the better understanding of the relationship between pastoral care, mental health and spirituality, and the advancement of understanding between religion and psychiatry.”

John, with his characteristic energy, was able to break down mistrust and ignorance in what can often be a hostile environment, and to forge lifelong friendships with professionals who before might have been dismissive of the value of spiritual and pastoral care.

Retirement to Dorchester could not mean rest for John. He spent his remaining years supporting his local church, engaged in supervision, counselling, teaching, and spiritual accompaniment. Not content with that, he also campaigned on mental-health and ecological issues, despite increasing challenges to his health.

John took immense joy and pride in his family: Mary, his wife, whom he met in Cambridge, and his children, Andrew, Tim, Sam, and Naomi, and his grandchildren, Luke, Max, Wesley, Phoebe, and Sullivan.

There will be a service of thanksgiving for John at Southwark Cathedral, of which he was an Hon. Canon, on Tuesday 14 November, to which all are welcome; email mary.foskett1@btinternet.com.

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