THE Ven. Dennis Ede was born in Portsmouth in 1931, the youngest of seven children. Aged eight, he gained a music scholarship to the Prebendal School, Chichester, and was a chorister at the cathedral. This is where Dennis’s love of music and singing was nurtured, and his journey of faith began. He loved to tell the story of one mischievous misdemeanour as a choirboy when he and a few others snuck out one night to climb up the cathedral tower, carving their initials on the stone wall, then creeping back without being caught.
Dennis continued his secondary education at Ardingly College, before joining the RAF for military service. He and Angela met during their time at Nottingham University. Dennis completed his theological training at Ripon Hall, Oxford. In 1957, they started married life in Sheldon, Birmingham. where Dennis served his title. Daughters Clare and Andrea came along in 1959 and 1960. Later that year, the family moved to Hodge Hill, as Dennis was appointed Curate-in-Charge of St Philip’s and St James’s. Their son, David, was born in 1964.
In 1966, the wooden church building at Hodge Hill was burnt down. This led to the ambitious rebuilding of a new multi purpose-built church centre, way ahead of its time, which was used seven days a week. Dennis threw himself energetically into life and ministry here and the centre provided a wide range of activities and clubs for the whole community, from children and youth to the elderly. Dennis was also chaplain at East Birmingham Hospital, where he was a keen squash player. During this period, he completed an MA in Social Sciences at Birmingham University.
After 16 years in Birmingham, Dennis became Vicar of All Saints’, West Bromwich, and then Rural Dean. This provided a very different setting with a continual flow of funerals and weddings and responsibility of being chaplain at Sandwell District Hospital. Again, Dennis set about reordering the building to provide facilities and beautiful meeting spaces, with the provision of a car park. His pragmatism, energy, and leadership ensured things got done. In 1983, he was made a Prebendary of Lichfield Cathedral.
In 1989, Dennis and Angela moved to Newcastle-under-Lyme as Dennis was appoint Archdeacon of Stoke. Here, he oversaw a multitude of parishes across Staffordshire, working alongside Bishop Michael Scott-Joynt.
Bishop Scott-Joynt’s wife, Lou, writes of Dennis: “He was unbelievably energetic, and an early riser, though we discovered after some time that he was not quite such an early bird as his 4.30/5.00 a.m. emails gave us to believe. It transpired that the clock on his computer was wrongly set!”
Dennis became affectionately known for a while across the archdeaconry as “The Ven. Den.”, after he joined the Bishop and others for a four-day quasi-pilgrimage, walking about 70 miles of the Staffordshire Way. Dennis turned up in a splendid cap marked “Ven Den” and the name stuck.
On retirement in 1997, Dennis and Angela moved to Tilford, near Farnham in Surrey, where Dennis took a house-for-duty post. Life, taken at a slightly slower pace, enabled them now to enjoy more holidays, and time with the family. Their grandsons stayed regularly and enjoyed daily walks in the woods just behind the vicarage.
In 2002, they made their final move to Carshalton, Surrey, to be close to Andrea, Julian, and their sons. Son David bought the house next door, and they loved living in the cul-de-sac next to the park, thankful for the caring neighbours around them. Their church family became St Michael and All Angels, South Beddington.
Sadly, they lost their daughter Clare to serious illness in 2009. Dennis increasingly devoted his life to caring for Angela, now with dementia, until her death in 2016. He then adapted to life on his own, but never felt lonely.
Dennis was definitely a man whose cup was half full rather than half empty. He always looked for the best in people and you never heard him judge or berate others. He chose to bless rather than to curse, to trust rather than be suspicious. Dennis was an extrovert and loved people. He was a good listener; he genuinely took an interest in people and knew how to affirm and encourage them.
When he spoke, he had something worthwhile to say; he would reflect before offering his thoughts, often pearls of wisdom which made one ponder. Through his daily “holy habits”, he nurtured a steadfast, living Christian faith which was his foundation. This never wavered even in times of great challenge and suffering.
Despite his courageous battles with skin cancer over many years, which led to his having two major reconstruction operations on his face, he considered himself incredibly fortunate and immensely blessed by God for everything in his life. He was so pleased to spend one last wonderful summer holiday with his family in Belgium, which had become his second home.
Even at the end, he thanked the nurses and doctors at the Royal Marsden and praised the NHS for all the care that he had received in his life. In his last conversation with his family, he gave thanks for his life, and prayed a blessing over them. Dennis’s life was an example of humble service, simply living out his faith. He died on 23 January, aged 89, and leaves us with a great legacy of how to be, how to behave, how to love, and how to persevere.