The Revd Ian Beckwith writes:
THE Revd Richard Strevens was born on Christmas Eve, 1934, and died on 13 January, aged 83. His family moved to East Sheen, Surrey, at the end of the Second World War. Richard Ernest Noel attended East Sheen Grammar School.
When he was about 11, his parents started taking him and his brother, Keith, to their local parish church. At the end of four months, his parents said: “Now you’re on your own. You know what to do. If you want to continue going to church, you can: if not, then you needn’t.” Thenceforward, on Sundays, Keith helped his father on the family allotment, while Richard went to church. It seems that from that point onwards Richard knew that he wanted to be a priest.
After National Service in the Intelligence Corps in Austria, Richard read theology at Nottingham University, in a distinguished department led by Professor Alan Richardson. I was reading history there at the time and we became life-long friends. He then went to Lincoln Theological College, was made deacon in 1962, and ordained priest in 1963. He served a curacy at St Botolph’s, Aldgate, combining this with teaching at the Sir John Cass Foundation School.
After 14 years in city ministry, now married to Sue, and with a son, Tim, Richard became Vicar of the rural parish of Clent. After ten years at Clent, he moved to Pirbright in Surrey, where he remained until 2000. During his time at Pirbright, he enjoyed being called on occasionally to step in as chaplain at the Guards Depot; he took delight in telling the high-ranking officers around him that he had been a National Service corporal in the Intelligence Corps.
On retirement, Richard and Sue moved to Cullompton, in Devon, where he assisted in the parish of Bradninch. Sadly, both his and Sue’s health broke down, and they moved to sheltered accommodation near their son and his family, in Kidderminster. From here, Richard — a lifelong rail enthusiast — could hear the sound of his beloved Severn Valley Railway. Sue died in 2015. Increasingly frail, Richard soldiered on, supported by his son and daughter-in-law, until his death came unexpectedly.
Given Richard’s love of steam locomotives, a mutual friend, Vincent Strudwick, has affectionately described his ministry thus: “He ran his parishes rather like an old-fashioned (thin) Controller. The station was in good repair and neat and tidy, the porters well dressed, organised and diligent, the services were managed like clockwork, and the passengers’ welfare and ability to get to and from their jobs, resourced by the service, were a prime concern.”.
To some, Richard’s way of working might indeed have appeared old-fashioned. With him, what you got was not gimmickry, but total dedication, devotion, scholarship, and integrity. From his early dealings with young East End scallywags, Richard acted on the belief that all of us are formed in God’s image.
For this reason, one of the few things that made him angry was disrespect by human beings for one another.
When Richard was ordained, two, above all of the promises then made, shaped his life: one was the undertaking to be an example and pattern of Christian living; the other was to maintain and set forward quietness, peace, and love among all people, and especially among those committed to his care. In these times of confusion and change, his life and example is one that his friends
and parishioners will remember and cherish.