Canon Rodney Nicholson, the Revd Chris Jackson, and Canon Alan Bell write:
THE Revd Richard Bunyan, who died on 28 April, aged 76, was a faithful, humble, compassionate, and vulnerable priest, who exercised a muchappreciated ministry, mainly in the spheres of parish and then prison. The only surviving child of older parents in Luton, Dick was, we believe, distantly related to John Bunyan.
We were fellow students from 1969 to 1971 at Ridley Hall, where Dick had moved from Oak Hill to broaden his theological experience and to test his conservative Evangelicalism in a more liberal context. He had been greatly influenced by the Revd John Collins, who led an imaginative and highly effective Evangelical ministry at St Mark’s, Gillingham. Dick maintained friendships with people in that parish.
Becoming later a Franciscan Tertiary, Dick had the knack of getting alongside people, but, we suspect, was not wholly at ease with parish ministry. Accordingly, after serving in Bexley, Northampton, and Erith, Kent, he sought a new direction. In 1990, he joined the chaplaincy team at Scargill House, a community that was familiar to him; but he did not settle in the post and left after a short time.
For the last 22 years of his active ministry, he held prison-chaplaincy posts at Belmarsh, Thameside, and Littlehey. One of us visited him at Littlehey. He was exercising a valuable ministry. At the prison chapel, he drew attention to the person who was acting as a kind of verger and assisting with the practical side of the chapel arrangements. That person was a murderer. It was one of those significant moments when you realise the privilege and demands of prison ministry — and that brief moment has stayed in the mind of the visitor.
We remember him as rather a solitary person, although that would not have prevented his caring and working for the good of any he ministered to. But he was also someone who, we gather, formed close friendships that were very dear to him, and which provided him with great support in retirement. He was had a firm grasp of the gospel that he wished to spread.
He would have valued the structure and routines of the prison, even though it was very demanding, and the posts that he held there. It gave him the context in which his ministry could flourish, and that included serving as an Officer for Spirituality in his retirement diocese of Ely.
The Church is strengthened and enhanced by those unsung servants of Christ who have shed his light in those less promising, as well as the more exhilarating, parts of his mission field. Dick was one of those gracious servant-priests. We thank God for him.
Contributions from the Revd Jes Salt.