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Obituary: The Revd Professor Colin Morris

12 November 2021

Canon John Nightingale and Prebendary David Nash write:

THE Revd Professor Colin Morris, who died in Southampton on 18 September, aged 93, was an outstanding college chaplain and a distinguished church historian.

He was born in Hull and educated there at Hymers College. After National Service, he continued his education at The Queen’s College, Oxford, where the chaplain was Dennis Nineham, and David Jenkins, later Bishop of Durham, was a contemporary.

Colin achieved first-class degrees in both history and theology, and then prepared for ordination at Lincoln Theological College. He was ordained deacon in 1953, and priest in 1954, and was to serve for the next 16 years as chaplain of Pembroke College, Oxford.

During this time, he saw the college expand from a quiet, old-fashioned place to a community that was up-to-date and dynamic. Much of this was reflected in the ministry that Colin offered in the college chapel. At a period when this was ahead of its times, all Christians were welcome to receive the sacrament Sunday by Sunday; so Anglicans and Free Churchmen were all part of the same fellowship.

Colin invited a wide range of distinguished guests both to preach at evensong and to speak at well-attended meetings of the Christian Fellowship. Somehow, Colin, essentially a shy man, managed to bring together in one fellowship students of widely divergent churchmanship. He was a good listener and gave wise advice. He had a good sense of humour, and would laugh uproariously, even at a joke against himself.

Beyond the college, Colin was deeply involved in promoting social outreach, and this was focused chiefly in establishing the Oxford-Borstal Camps. Briefly: a number of students were joined by an equal number of Borstal boys in a two weeks’ fellowship. The first week was spent camping in the Yorkshire Dales, and in the second, the Oxford students experienced life in a Borstal institution.

It was an example of social and religious outreach of its time, and today it would be hard to assess its effectiveness; but no one could doubt the sincerity of the impulse to stretch across the big divide between the students and boys who were on the wrong side of the law to communicate Christian friendship and support. Colin Morris was a very enthusiastic promoter of these camps, taking him back to his native Yorkshire, and most years served as the Anglican chaplain.

During these 16 years, Colin was also one of the history tutors at his college, and a university lecturer in medieval history. In 1969, he became Professor of Medieval History at Southampton University, where he was to remain until he retired in 1993. During this time, he published a popular book about medieval history, The Discovery of the Individual, as well as a learned volume on the history of the papacy. As a priest, he participated wholeheartedly in the ministry of the churches in central Southampton.

He leaves a widow, Brenda, a psychiatrist, whom he met as a young man in Hull; and two sons and a daughter.

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