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Obituary: The Ven. Lorys Davies

01 April 2021

The Rt Revd Dr Colin Buchanan writes:

THE Ven. Lorys Davies died on 25 February, aged 84. Always evidently Welsh in heart and voice, he lived as a gracious expatriate ministering to the needs of his English neighbours.

With a degree from Lampeter and trained at Wells, at 23, he was ordained deacon to a curacy in Tenby. He then took up English school chaplaincies, first in Brentwood, then in Solihull. His Solihull headmaster commended him thus to his next appointment: “I’ve seen many [parsons] at close quarters. Lorys Davies is one of the finest I have ever known. Don’t expect an easy time or a light commitment.”

That next appointment, made by Bishop Leonard Wilson, was as Vicar of St Mary’s, Moseley, in south Birmingham. For 13 years, Lorys ministered the gospel and cared for his congregation.

His assistant curates speak highly of him; one, Rob Morris, joined him in 1978 as Chaplain to Centre 13, the full-time youth and community centre of St Mary’s. This, he writes, was “a typical Lorys arrangement of circumstance, funding and timely moment. He had a rich ability to engage with people, in business, the arts, local-authority and health services; with dementia patients in our local hospital; listening and responding to young people; and building relationships with Moseley’s many rootless and often damaged people. He was a trusted magistrate, an exciting organist, a resourceful liturgist and preacher, and a wise counsellor.”

He loved show-business, and once accompanied Lennie the Lion and Leslie Crowther as a stand-in pianist at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham.

In 1981, the Bishop of Birmingham, Hugh Montefiore, appointed Lorys diocesan director of ordinands (DDO) and a residentiary canon of Birmingham Cathedral. It was in his DDO capacity that I, as a college principal, first met him, when he visited us to nurture his ordinands and to appraise the college. We valued him as one of the most responsible DDOs.

After a few years, Lorys took on more at Birmingham Cathedral, helping to develop it. I arrived as Suffragan Bishop of Aston, and worked with him on diocesan tasks, not least the care of ordinands and assistant curates. He was a diocesan servant of unlimited patience and care — care efficiently exercised and running from spiritual formation to marital concerns, from personal relationships to finance and housing. An all-round man of God, he strove that those allocated to him should be all-round people of God. But it was all conveyed with light-hearted humour.

Lorys was well moulded for his new appointment when, in 1992, he became Archdeacon of Bolton, in Manchester diocese. Before taking up his post, he asked Rob Morris to allow him a six-week voluntary curacy in his Handsworth parish, to keep his own hand in parish-wise. Then he was a superb archdeacon. He knew the range of Church of England parishes, understood the character of clergy lives, and was skilled in buildings, legalities, and, at intervals, discipline.

David Gillett, his second Bishop of Bolton, writes: “He was pre-eminently a pastoral archdeacon. No phone call about leaking roofs, chronic illness, burglaries, family traumas, and the rest would ever be [delayed]. Lorys was there at the very earliest opportunity, even at very unsociable hours. Lorys would somehow work things out.”

In interviewing another of his former curates, Stuart Millington, for an incumbency in Lancashire, he confided: “You will find you have one awkward parishioner — me!” And an old comradeship blossomed.

I owe a personal debt to Lorys. In 1989, I resigned as Suffragan Bishop of Aston. In the months before we left, he visited our home nearly every week, simply to affirm us and be with us. That spoke volumes. Deeply touched, we retain our gratitude to this day.

Lorys retired in 2002, and he and Barbara moved to Bromsgrove, where he assisted at St John’s. This completed a happy variety of ministries, each of which he fitted so well. He worked well alongside all; all were his peers in Christ.

More recently, Lorys’s health declined, and Barbara gave every energy to nursing him. A loving couple, they celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary last year; and deep sympathies now go to Barbara and to their sons, Christopher and Mark. From an English funeral, his body passes to a Welsh burial; from a very full earthly ministry for Christ, Lorys has passed to an eternal welcome.

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