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Obituary: The Revd Michael Stevens

by
17 July 2020

BRIAN NEWBLE

Dr James P. S. Thomson and the Revd Edward Lewis write:

THE Revd Michael Stevens was a doyen of hospital chaplains. He served at both St Thomas’ and St Bartholomew’s Hospitals for thirty years. His ministry was recognised with the award of the Cross of St Augustine by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the St Mellitus Medal by the Bishop of London. He is the only hospital chaplain to have received both honours, and nobody was more surprised than Michael, when told he had been nominated. In 2000 he became the 30th Preacher of Charterhouse, where he served with distinction for a decade.

Born in 1937, educated at Emanuel School, Battersea, Michael read English at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 1963. He was formed for ministry in the Church of England at the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, and was ordained deacon in 1965 and priest the following year. He served his title in the parish of All Saints’, Poplar, for six years, until he began his life’s work as a hospital chaplain in 1971. His first appointment was as assistant chaplain at the London Hospital for four years, before being appointed to St Thomas’ Hospital in 1975. It was here that he met Diane, a member of the nursing staff, who was to become his wife.

After 21 years he moved to the oldest London hospital, the Royal Hospital of St Bartholomew, where he served as Hospitaller for nine years. During this period, he was also Vicar of St Bartholomew the Less, the parish church of the hospital being within the campus. Michael trained hospital chaplains and served on the Hospital Chaplaincies Council of the General Synod of the Church of England. He chaired the panel of assessors with responsibility for appointing chaplains and reviewing chaplaincies. He was very much a hands-on chaplain and was opposed to the model of chaplaincy where management took the place of contact with staff and patients. His reviews of chaplaincy departments were full of common-sense suggestions, as well as practical pointers for strengthening a department. It is thanks to chaplains of Michael’s calibre that chaplaincy has withstood the budget- cutting pressures within the NHS.

In 2000, Prebendary Alan Tanner retired as Preacher of the Charterhouse, after nearly 30 years. Michael succeeded him, initially on a part-time basis and then, from 2005, as a full-time resident member of staff with his wife Diane (affectionately known as Di) who was appointed Manciple, a position she held with distinction until Michael’s retirement in 2009. Michael, who was also Deputy Master, contributed much to the life of Charterhouse especially with his conscientious pastoral care of the Brothers. His many achievements included the reintroduction of daily Morning and Evening Prayer, planning the restoration of the chapel organ, reordering the Brothers’ Burial Ground at St Mary the Virgin, Little Hallingbury, in Chelmsford diocese, where he had Permission to Officiate, and the creation of a small chapel in the Queen Elizabeth II Infirmary dedicated to St Bruno, founder of the Carthusian Order in 1084.

He was also instrumental in establishing an annual commemoration of the Carthusian Martyrs of 1535-40 on or near 4 May, which became significant ecumenical occasions with the members of the Roman Catholic (Westminster Cathedral) and Methodist Churches (Wesley’s Chapel) attending. When the choristers of Westminster Cathedral sang Latin Vespers in May 2007, it was the first public Roman Catholic service to be held at Charterhouse since the Reformation. As Deputy Master, Michael was a member of the management team and the hospital care committee.

In 2006, Michael observed the 40th anniversary of his ordination to priesthood and, to mark the occasion, he and Di generously presented the chapel with a fine gold chasuble.

Michael retired to Nursling, in Hampshire, after a most successful ten-year term as Preacher; Romsey Abbey became his spiritual home. He was a thoughtful and supportive colleague, wise in his advice. He and Di worked as a team particularly after she retired from King’s College Hospital, when the skills that she had honed as a senior neonatal nurse were put to effective use as Manciple, helping to care for the elderly. In retirement, Di lovingly cared for Michael as disability advanced. He died peacefully on St Columba’s Day, 9 June, aged 82. May Michael rest in peace.

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