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04 June 2021

Geoff Baguley writes:

THE arrival of the Rt Revd Paul Barber (Gazette, 12 March) caused quite a flutter in Peterborough diocese dovecots in 1989. Here was a new man appearing on the scene in a new post: what was he be going be like? His diocesan, Ian Cundy, was well established and was looking for an effective hard-worker to support him. That was what he got.

Paul was no showman, but was quiet and modest, with a clear pastoral concern. He became recognised as a man with a commitment to the poor and a clear regard for ministry with children.

Paul recounted a story of his first visit to Bungoma, partner diocese at the time. He was met at the airport by a taxi driver whom he described as “a simple, honest man” who identified himself and then said, “Before we start our journey, I am going to pray for our safe arrival.” This sounded ominous, but Paul soon realised that this was a normal show of Christian faith in that community and, on his safe return to England, he urged his hearers to adopt the same practice in their daily lives.

On another occasion, I had cause to draw his attention to an incident with a racist element involving a young mother whose treatment in a church-school context left something to be desired. It was a relatively small affair, and his secretary at the time tried her best to shield him and divert me elsewhere. He was particularly busy, but found time to listen and took quick, discreet, and effective action, with no fanfares, and earned gratitude and respect from a victim previously close to cynicism and embitterment.

During the illness and death of Bishop Cundy in 2009, he worked tirelessly to keep things on an even keel: a man of faith, discernment, and commitment.


Tony Porter writes:

THE old colonel died at the age of 95. When he was 90, the vicar called on him to offer congratulations and to ask the secret of his longevity. “I take a walk each day and do my exercises, but it’s the gunpowder that keeps me going, padre. Two teaspoonfuls on my Weetabix each morning!” And so, five years later, the old man died — and left a big hole in the crematorium.

This is one of the memorable humorous stories that Canon Michael Wadsworth would tell at the end of a sermon. I hope that a collection will be made of them and, indeed, of his sermons themselves. May he rest in peace.

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