The Ven. Clive Mansell writes:
THE New Year Honours list 2002 announced that David Webster of Tunbridge Wells had been awarded the OBE “for services to the Church of England”. Those services were wide-ranging, as I discovered as I came to know David across the last quarter of his life and to enjoy his friendship, his laughter, and his faith.
I first met David, who died on 18 August, aged 87, in 1995, when I was elected to the General Synod for the diocese of Ripon. I was a “new boy”, but David had served on the Synod since 1975 as a member for Rochester diocese, and he would eventually serve there till 2005. We later met as fellow Church Commissioners, and, in 2002, when I became Archdeacon of Tonbridge in Rochester diocese, I saw him in action on the Bishop’s Council, on the diocesan synod, in the life of diocesan communications, in his parish of St Paul’s, Rusthall, and in the local area. In each setting, he would bring a combination of Christian faith, energy, wisdom, and a readiness to speak, question, encourage, and see things progressed forward.
Amid everything, he had a keen sense of fun, a deep love of sport, an engaging interest in people, an outlook of friendship, and a desire to support the young. He is remembered at the Church Commissioners, where he served on the pastoral, the bishoprics and cathedrals, and the management advisory committees as “charming, positive, and driven by Christian mission”, and as a “regular, passionate and unwaivering supporter of Charlton Athletic”. At his funeral, his coffin was carried out to the Charlton supporters’ song, “Red, red robin”. (An alternative suggestion, reflecting David’s love of cricket, had been the Test Match Special theme tune.)
His professional life was spent largely working as a journalist for the Financial Times, the Investors’ Chronicle, and the Scottish Sunday Post. His adult family life flowed from his 64-year-long marriage to his beloved Ruth, and it extended in time to their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He famously liked to celebrate their landmarks — big birthdays and anniversaries — with lunches and dinners out for the family.
David, who was a Reader for 30 years, was described “as an outstanding preacher, often preaching with humour, always conveying a sense that scripture was as relevant in the current century as it was 2000 years ago”.
His Christian faith lay at the heart of who he was. He described his faith as “unshakeable”. So it proved, as diminished health led to his spending his last years in a residential care home. Whenever I visited him there, he was remarkably at peace, and never complained at his circumstance or at the loss of his former vigour. He remained enthusiastic, full of humour, and interested in others and in the life of the Church, local and national.
He was delighted when I would offer to pray for him at the end of a visit. We would always take leave of one another in the experience of prayer and shared Christian faith.
So, too, it was that Ruth, his family and many of his friends gathered in prayer and thanksgiving to God for him at his funeral on 4 September. We heard the verse which appropriately opened his favourite Bible reading: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, Rejoice.”