Obituary: The Revd Brian Dodsworth

by
20 September 2019

The Revd Brian Dodsworth

The Revd Brian Dodsworth

The Revd Dr Nicholas Roberts writes:

THE Revd Brian Dodsworth, who died at his home in Greenwich, London, on 18 July, spent most of his long ordained ministry, well beyond normal retirement age, working in the context of the prison service.

Brian Dodsworth was born in Ilkley, Yorkshire, in 1934, the oldest of four brothers. He attended Ilkley Grammar School until he was 16, and then worked in banking in Ilkley until he was called up for National Service two years later, and joined the RAF. He had been influenced by his bank manager, who was a devoted Christian, and at All Saints’, Ilkley, he became a member of the choir and later played the organ for services.

His two years in the RAF gave him new skills, including the ability to touch-type.

After that period of service, he decided to train for the priesthood, and attended St Michael’s College, Llandaff, and was successful in his studies — obtaining the University of Wales Diploma in Theology — and also as a rugby player. His ordination took place in the diocese of Worcester in 1962, and he became the curate of St Mary’s, Kidderminster. He also studied at Birmingham University for the Diploma in Pastoral Theology.

After the curacy, he decided to move into the prison service, and remained there, mainly as a chaplain, from 1967 until he finally retired in November 2018, at the age of 84.

During his long years of service as a chaplain, he worked first at Manchester, then at Eastchurch, Wakefield, Wormwood Scrubs, Brixton, and, more recently, Pentonville. He also spent some years as assistant chaplain general for the south of England, and as assistant chaplain general at chaplaincy HQ, although he probably preferred work on the “wings” to the life of a civil servant.

He continued with his studies throughout his long career in the prison service, and in 1994 gained an Open University B.Sc. degree in Criminology.

Having lived for several years in Dulwich, in the diocese of Southwark, he is warmly remembered by a number of congregations for the many services he conducted in that part of London.

Sadly, not long after his retirement, which he had hoped to enjoy by listening to music, travelling to his beloved Brazil, and attending his favourite operas, besides offering his famous hospitality to friends from many parts of the world, he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and his health deteriorated very quickly.

In reflecting on his long career, the main characteristics that strike his friends and former colleagues were his gentleness, kindness, and accepting nature — above all, towards those whom society finds it necessary to separate from people to whom they represent a potential threat or danger. He knew perfectly well that human beings do wicked things; but his guiding light was his vision of our Lord, who chose to die a criminal’s death, crucified between two political prisoners.

So Brian was undoubtedly a man of great generosity of spirit, who understood the dark side of human nature, but also had a determination to look for the goodness in everyone, including those whom we might be tempted to write off as sinners: we may sometimes forget that Christ died for all of us, not just those whose anti-social acts lead them to spend time behind bars.

He will be greatly missed by all who were fortunate enough to know him, in particular his many friends in different parts of the world, whom he treated with many years of loyalty and kindness.

I wish to record my gratitude to his brothers Ian and Ernest Dodsworth, and also Alberto Silva Filho, for their invaluable help in preparing this obituary, and for others who have informally shared their memories of Brian with me.

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