Obituary: Dr Roger Hurding

by
02 August 2019

The Rt Revd David Atkinson writes:

THE parish church of Portishead was packed to capacity for the funeral of Roger Hurding, one of the church’s finest lay pastors and pastoral trainers, who died on 3 June, aged 85. Known to generations of students at Trinity College, Bristol, where, for 20 years, he was a visiting lecturer teaching counselling and pastoral care, he was also known much more widely — indeed, internationally — for his writings, including Roots and Shoots: A guide to counselling and psychotherapy (1985), Coping with Illness (1988), Understanding Adolescence (1989), The Bible and Counselling (1992), and Pathways to Wholeness (1998).

Roger trained first as a medical doctor and was, for nine years, a GP, during which time he also trained as a Reader in the Church of England. He eventually accepted a post in the student-health team at the University of Bristol. Gradually, his listening skills, pastoral sensitivity, and warm hospitality led him increasingly towards counselling and psychotherapy.

In 1962, he married Joy, and they had three children and six grandchildren.

Roger’s life story could be told as that of one illness after another. He was diabetic from his teens, which led to loss of vision, and indeed to eight months’ total blindness in the 1970s, and some pioneering eye surgery. For many years, he was afflicted with brucellosis. He lost his sight again, requiring further surgery.

He suffered with angina, and needed quadruple-bypass heart surgery in 1993, which, he was told, would give him another five years. He lived another 26 years, though with constant health scares and progressive renal failure. His family said he had eight lives.

All of this provided Roger with very deep insights into the suffering of others, and also gave him wise perspectives on the various Evangelical and other Christian healing ministries that were offered him from time to time.

Roger was one of the early pioneers of organisations set up to provide counselling in a Christian context. He was a member of and valued contributor to the Theology Study Group of one of the first, Care and Counsel, which was based in London.

He set up a Network Counselling Service for Bristol. He gave advice when the Oxford Christian Institute for Counselling was formed. He contributed significantly as annual gatherings of pastoral-care and counsel practitioners started to meet in the 1980s.

His Evangelical faith was radical, risk-taking, open and big-hearted: it was an inspiration to all who knew him. He joined Affirming Evangelicals to support LGBT people. He was described as having “an aversion to conformity and routine”. He loved painting, music, walking in Scotland, reading widely, as his eyesight allowed, and being with his family.

He studied theology, and his primary interest was to integrate his psychology and psychotherapy with his Christian faith. He loved Greenbelt, affirmed the world, was fully alert to political issues, and worked for peace and justice. He was a good man: thoroughly rounded, wise, warm, and approachable, authentic, deeply spiritual; someone everyone he met spoke well of. He rests in the peace of Christ, and we who knew him give thanks to God.

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