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Obituary: The Revd Michael Anderton

by
31 July 2020

A correspondent writes:

THE Revd Frederic Michael Anderton died on 28 April, in his 89th year. He was a larger-than-life character whose immense capacity for friendship and an enjoyment of the good things in life sat alongside a profound and far-reaching ministry as a priest-analyst.

Michael, as he was always known, was born in Agra in 1931, within sight — he claimed — of the Taj Mahal. His father was a military doctor; through his mother, he inherited the complicated and contested quarterings of the Hastings family, whom Henry VIII created Earls of Huntingdon in 1513. The Andertons returned from India in 1939 for their children to be schooled.

At Sherborne, Michael’s sporting prowess made him a demigod; he was head boy in 1950, and, at the great service of thanksgiving for the school’s quartercentenary, he read from Ecclesiasticus. The recorded service is available on YouTube, with his young patrician tones ringing down the Abbey nave. National Service with the Green Jackets followed; he was posted to Germany, where he filled the next two years with cricket — his first love — eating and drinking in the officers’ mess, going to the opera, and writing cars off.

He took all four pastimes with him when he went up to Cambridge in 1952 to read medicine. A few years later, he graduated in history and economics, having spent the intervening period playing university rugby, hockey, and cricket. His faith had also been nurtured, however, and, during a spell as a prep-school master, his vocation to the priesthood crystallised. He arrived at Westcott House in 1964, and was ordained deacon in 1966.

Michael served his title at St John’s Wood, in London, right next to Lord’s Cricket Ground. As a first-class cricketer he had been elected to the MCC in 1958, and was a regular fixture at Lord’s for the rest of his life; he was made an Honorary Life Member in 2018. He spent his second curacy at All Hallows by the Tower, where the personality of P. B. “Tubby” Clayton, of Toc H fame, still loomed large. When Clayton died in 1972, Michael was at his bedside.

Next came St Giles Cripplegate, where Michael was put in charge of the new St Luke’s, Old Street, just off the Whitecross Street market. It was not an easy patch — the original church was derelict, and the East End was still untroubled by “gentrification” — but Michael did not have to work alone. He had met Robin Coulson at a party after a Test match; they were married in 1977, and she was his constant companion until the day he died.

Michael would wander through the market stalls singing hymns at the top of his enormous voice, accompanied by students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Some mornings, Robin would try to leave for work, only to find that the parish children had picked up her car and hidden it around a corner. After their daughter Sophia’s first visit to the market, there was enough silver in her pram to open a savings account.

A fourth and final curacy spoke of a change of direction: St Andrew’s, Zurich. Michael’s formidable intellect and deep love of people, combined with his membership of the Guild of Pastoral Psychology, had led him to discern a vocation to psychoanalysis alongside his priesthood. He entered the C. G. Jung Institute in 1982, and returned to London four years later to establish his practice as an analytical psychologist.

His consulting room was full of books and pipe-smoke, and he became a well-known and well-respected member of the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. Recognising a need for therapy that emphasised the spiritual and religious aspects of Jung’s work, he co-founded the Guild of Analytical Psychologists in 1987.

In retirement at Winchester, where they worshipped at the cathedral, the Andertons’ hospitality was prodigious. He was still treating clients in his mid-eighties, before advancing ill health brought this precious aspect of his ministry to a close.

For Michael there was no contradiction between his work as an analyst and the exercise of his priesthood. While he remained able to celebrate the eucharist, it was his prayerful custom at the offertory to call to mind his knowledge of the evil that stalks the earth; the roaring Compline lion, seeking whom he may devour. As a priest and as an analyst, Michael Anderton accompanied many people into dark places, drew out profound insights and observations, and gently led them to safety, soul by cherished soul.

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