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06 January 2017

The Revd Mark Bailey writes:

AN IMPORTANT part of Canon Ian Tomlinson’s work (Obituary, 18 November), and, indeed, of his legacy, was the setting up of a counselling service for use by clergy and their households within the diocese of Winchester.

Ian was all too aware of the vulnerability and frailty of clergy, and their need for psychological support at times of crisis. He cared very deeply about his fellow priests, and knew from his own life’s experience how valuable, even vital, being able to share and offload in a safe therapeutic setting could be.

Ian had a big heart and a very good mind. He was very quickly able to differentiate between a “sin” and inappropriate behaviour acted out as a result of early childhood emotional neglect. This under­standing, more often than not, meant that he was ahead of the game when seeking support for a lonesome curate who needed further financial support for more care.

He was dubbed by more than one as “the priests’ pastor”, and was much admired for this work by bishops, archdeacons, and everyone else who had the pleasure of work­ing with him.

The Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, adds: As a professional associate of the Grubb Institute of Behavioural Studies, Ian was a pioneer in using psychotherapy to inform under­standings of ministry. In his in­imit­able, hospitable man­ner, full of self-deprecation tem­pered with beautiful humility and rich insight, he rose to become one of the most influential clergy­men of his generation.

Always more of a “back-room boy”, he preferred consultancy and counsel to the ecclesiastical lime­light. He was a remarkable priest, pastor, counsellor, consultant, scholar, wry observer, wit — and more besides.

His capacity to reflect on himself, his ministry, and his community was always remarkable. His eye missed nothing. He counselled and con­soled, and yet understood the dif­ference between empathy and compassion. He was but one sign of God’s Kingdom in a smallish English rural benefice — an unchanging symbol of God’s light, love, and presence in a world that is distracted and busy.

At the same time, he was utterly contemporary and professional in his work, with a methodology and practice of ministry that was re­­spons­ively dynamic both in and to its environments. He read assiduou­sly and discerningly.

Ian blended the unchanging virtues, values, pract­­ices, and be­­haviours of a faithful ministry with all the very best theology, wisdom, and work of a thoroughly modern minister.

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