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31 December 2020

Canon Tim Ollier writes:

I WAS saddened, as I am sure many were, to learn of the death of Bishop Richard Lewis. I would like to expand on the obituary (Gazette, 13 November) from a north-east perspective, to offer a picture of his life and ministry after he moved from his industrial-mission post spanning the Tyne to becoming Communications Officer for Durham diocese from 1977 to 1982. In the mind of Bishop John Habgood, this post was as much about communication within the diocese as it was about communication from the diocese. This was no easy task, and perhaps Richard felt that finally he had not been entirely successful. His gently determined questioning came up against the inevitable vested interests.

Your obituarist speaks rightly of Richard’s concern to keep the Church actively in conversation with the world beyond church. So he was active with local radio, as part of a chaplaincy team in the recently set-up commercial Metro Radio station. While at first its operating model was from BBC local radio, Richard, ever the pastor, found himself consoling the sacked manager in the corridor, desk and all, who had been dispatched from his office. More parochially, when, as incumbent of the parishes where Richard lived, I, together with a neighbouring incumbent, wanted to set up a parish magazine that would be delivered free to every household in the parishes, Richard was immensely helpful. He had for that era some quite advanced printing equipment; so, every month, a group of us would descend on his study to run off and fold the latest edition.

When I was appointed incumbent of three country parishes, I inherited three places at odds with one another. One focus of the tension was where the new incumbent should live. A few months earlier, the bishop had asked Richard to live in one of them. I have no doubt that his gentle and gracious personality helped to bring the places together. He was unfailingly supportive of me when contentious issues cropped up. He was always warmly welcomed when he did a Sunday duty for us.

He will be as much missed for how he was as a pastor and priest as for any particular achievements.

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