The Revd Jane Held writes:
THE Revd Edward Rennard, who died on 30 December, aged 68, was the eldest son of Cecil and Jean Rennard, and brother to Christopher and Peter. His father served in the First World War, and died when Edward was just 12 years old. This left his mother, a nurse in the Second World War, to bring up the three boys as a single parent, and from 1969, she suffered severely from rheumatoid arthritis.
The death of his father had a great impact on Edward and his family. Edward moved from his Liverpool school to the Royal Masonic School for Boys in Bushey, Hertfordshire, studying with other sons of Freemasons who had died. There, he developed and pursued his love of music, which included learning the organ.
Edward undertook teacher training in Canterbury, where he was an occasional organist at the cathedral. He also introduced his visiting younger brothers to bell-ringing. He returned to Liverpool for his first post, teaching music and RE at a secondary school in Huyton, and became organist and choirmaster of St Gabriel’s, Huyton Quarry.
After a brief spell as a primary-school teacher, he felt called to the priesthood and went to Lincoln Theological College in September 1976. He met Margaret, his wife, there, training to be a deaconess.
Edward was ordained deacon and Margaret admitted to the order of deaconesses at the same time, and exercised their ministries for 42 years, also bringing up their two children, Clare and Hugh. Although a church musician, Edward never had a parish with a deep musical tradition, but he took an active and lively interest in the place of music in worship and encouraged a range of choirs and organists along the way
Edward was a man of deep principles, theologically able, and took preaching and teaching very seriously. He described himself as “passionate about the care of the people for whom, with the Bishop, I have the ‘cure of souls’”. He encouraged vocations, both lay and ordained.
For him, celebrating the eucharist was at the heart of the priestly ministry. He was gently liberal Catholic in his churchmanship, and his generosity towards colleagues gave rise to a rich and mixed diet of worship, but was always centred on the centrality of the eucharist. He expected it to be “done well, to the best of our ability in praise of God”.
He was also passionately interested in the relationship between Christianity and society. He wrote in his page on the Blyth Valley Team website that “The Christian Faith starts with meeting together in community, or it does not start at all. . . If you’re considering being a part of the Church in the Blyth Valley Team Ministry, you need to know that you will be radically accepted and cared for just as you are. We do not ask you to dress in a particular way or agree with everything you hear, or to believe six impossible things before breakfast.”
It was this inclusive approach, his ability to nurture, encourage, affirm, and support his communities that marked Edward out. Edward also quietly and unassumingly cared for individuals and provided much valued pastoral ministry to many a person in crisis. His principles were strong, his nature was warm, quiet, and intellectual, and he was absent-minded, occasionally stubborn, and uncompromisingly himself. He worked very hard.
In the past six years or so, Edward’s health deteriorated, and his ministry became overshadowed by health problems. This made life tougher and harder for him, but his ability to delegate to and trust others helped to keep the team thriving.
He and Margaret were planning to retire in May — 20 years after his arrival in Halesworth — a future that he was beginning to plan for. His unexpected death has come as a shock and a sadness to all. He himself never doubted that life after death was going to be truly as promised, but he leaves behind regret and sadness, as well as a recognition of a life well lived, God well served, and his community enriched.