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Obituary: The Rt Revd Derek Bond

17 August 2018

The Very Revd Dr John Moses writes:

THE Rt Revd Derek Bond, who died, surrounded by his family on 20 July, aged 91, enriched the lives of many people during his long years as priest and bishop by his humanity, his graciousness, his openness to new possibilities, his great strengths as a pastor, and the depths of faith and prayer on which he drew.

Charles Derek Bond was born in Wolverhampton, but moved as a boy with his family to Bournemouth in the mid-1930s. He went from Bournemouth School to King’s College, London, and, in due course, to Warminster. It was at King’s that he encountered the two men — Eric Abbott, the Dean, and John Trillo, a lecturer at the college while he was Rector of Friern Barnet — who were influential in the formation and the development of his vocation. It was at King’s that he learned the importance of a theology that is biblically based and seriously open to the questions that people ask.

A curacy at Friern Barnet, followed by a brief period as the Midlands Area Secretary of SCM in Schools, and then a short incumbency at St Paul’s, Harringay, led to his appointment as the Vicar of All Saints’, Harrow Weald, for ten years, until John Trillo, by then Bishop of Chelmsford, invited him to become the Archdeacon of Colchester. Harringay and Harrow Weald were both parishes in transition where Derek’s distinctively Anglican style — working in the community and with the community — enabled the churches to make new connections.

Chelmsford is a remarkable diocese, encompassing large inner-city areas, new towns, established urban communities, small villages, large areas of farmland, and an extensive coastal slip. It is in many ways a microcosm of the nation, an area of great diversity and strong local identities. It was there that Derek was to work for 20 years, initially as Archdeacon of Colchester and then, for 16 years, as Bishop of Bradwell.

He brought to his work an active and enquiring mind, a great capacity for friendship, a wise and sensitive judgement, an engaging smile, and much good humour. Few things during his early years as a bishop demonstrated more clearly the priorities to which he worked than the seriousness with which he engaged simultaneously with three large housing-development areas, attempting to secure wherever possible the highest degree of ecumenical participation. But he was, above everything else, a bishop who knew his clergy, took their work very seriously, and carried them in his prayers.

His appointment as the National Chairman of the Church of England Men’s Society in the early 1980s would almost certainly have opened up new possibilities for his particular gifts in an earlier generation, but times had changed and the pattern of decline in the work of the Society was too far advanced on too many fronts. It fell to Derek to make the hard call to set up a Commission that was almost bound to lead to a recommendation to closure. It was a hard decision, and he shared the pain of those who felt the loss.

Derek retired from his full-time ministry in the summer of 1992. His long years as Bishop of Bradwell — with something approaching 150 clergy and 200 parishes in the episcopal area — had left him more than a little weary; but retirement offered new possibilities, initially as Chairman of the British Regional Committee of St George’s College in Jerusalem, and then, at a later date, as Chairman of the Retired Clergy Association. Meanwhile, Derek continued to be active as an Honorary Assistant Bishop for the dioceses of Worcester and Gloucester — while he and Valerie lived at Evesham — and then for the diocese of Chelmsford, after their final move to Saffron Walden in 2007.

But what made everything possible for Derek — and had done from the beginning — was the love and unfailing support provided by Valerie, their four children, their 11 grandchildren, and their three great-grandchildren. Family mattered enormously to him, and I can still recall a Christmas letter written a few years back when Derek delighted in the fact that he had been put down on the rota for cooking breakfast for 15 on Boxing Day. He left his readers in no doubt about the scale of the operation: 15 fried eggs, 15 pork sausages, 30 rashers of bacon, and baked beans and buttered toast for all. It was made very clear that — for Derek — Boxing Day couldn’t come soon enough.

Valerie was Derek’s mainstay throughout a marriage of 67 years, supporting, encouraging, making their home a place of hospitality, enabling him (if possible) to stop and relax. And it was, of course, Valerie who bore the chief burden as Derek was struck down by dementia over the last three or four years. They valued each other enormously, and they were enormously valued by all who knew them.

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