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Obituary: Canon Stephen Grey

01 April 2022

The Rt Revd Geoff Pearson writes:

I FIRST encountered Stephen Grey in the Waterside parishes in Blackburn diocese. It was a post covering three churches that needed Stephen’s dynamism and energy. He then moved to a challenging post in the market town of Garstang.

He was realistic about the problems, especially in connection with a half-built hall, for which money had run out. Stephen was determined that both the work should be finished and the parish share be paid. He did both and was named Man of the Year by the Garstang Courier. He and his wife Janette also started an effective contemporary-worship service, as well as several Alpha courses. Stephen, who could talk to anyone, sweet-talked people into joining, while Janette did the cooking.

From Garstang, Stephen moved to Newton-le-Willows, in Liverpool diocese, where he had plenty of scope for his abundant energy. Just before he died suddenly, I came for two confirmation services in his church, and he was just about to take up a new post in the deanery which nobody else was willing to tackle.

Alongside his abundant energy, Stephen had a competitive spirit, which he carried into playing tennis and supporting Manchester City. He walked a lot, completing the Coast to Coast and the Yorkshire Three Peaks, and climbed five of the highest peaks in the Pyrenees. He ran 10K races, completed the Great North Swim, and undertook many other things to raise money for his churches.

Possibly his craziest idea was when he decided to row the length of Ullswater and back in a wooden rowing boat. He persuaded a parishioner to join him. When he arrived to hire the boat, he asked how long it would take him. He was told that no one had ever done it before. The two hours and 20 minutes taken to reach Pooley Bridge became, as the wind changed direction, a five-hour return journey. It was a long day.

Stephen’s head was so full of ideas that he would regularly misplace things. He held the NatWest record for the highest number of debit cards issued to one person — 28!

Stephen married Jane, and they had two children, Hannah and Joshua. Nineteen years ago, he married Janette, she had Fiona, and a new family unit was formed, which flourished beautifully over the ensuing years. Janette, a lecturer in nursing, helped Stephen with a lot of entertaining, particularly.

Just before he died, I gave Stephen a book on Liverpool parables, including one about famous comebacks. Although we disagreed about the football stories, we agreed that the greatest comeback happened more than 2000 years ago: an Easter story of resurrection, which Stephen lived and died by.

Canon Stephen Grey died on 13 January, aged 65.

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