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Obituary: The Ven. Anthony Comber

05 August 2022

Yorkshire Post

A correspondent writes:

THE Ven. Anthony James Comber, a former Archdeacon of Leeds who could not stand injustice and spent much of his ministry quietly helping people who found life hard, has died aged 95.

His mission as a priest, and as a staunch Socialist, was always to understand the needs of the people he served, being very good to those struggling. He was a private man, and so never broadcast his work. It included, in the 1960s, organising hiking visits to the Yorkshire Dales for young people from families who found life hard; he enjoyed walking, and walking with them.

He was also part of the Faith in Leeds groups in the 1970s, which brought together people from different denominations. His own theology was drawn from both High Church and Evangelical traditions; wherever he went, he was always understanding of individual parishes.

As Archdeacon, he chaired the Leeds committee of the Church Urban Fund, after the 1985 publication of the Faith in the City report, which called for action by both the Church and the nation in urban priority areas

He was born in Leeds to parents who were Baptists. They had moved from Brighton to Leeds before he was born, when his father, who was a soil scientist, became a professor at Leeds University. The family attended South Parade Baptist Church, but Tony later chose to become an Anglican after attending St Chad’s, Far Headingley, in Leeds.

Tony was educated at Leeds Grammar School before gaining a first degree, in 1959, and then a Master’s, in 1952, in mining engineering at Leeds. He then worked in collieries in Yorkshire, and spent time at the Königin Elisabeth coal mine, in Essen, Germany.

But, in 1953, he decided to study theology and went to St Chad’s College, Durham. He completed his ordination training and spent a year at Munich University. He was ordained priest in 1957 and served his title at St James’s, Maston, in Leeds.

From 1960 to 1969, he was Vicar at St John’s, Oulton, before moving to St Mary the Virgin, Hunslet, and St Andrew’s, Stourton, both in Leeds. St Andrew’s closed in 1973, and, when St Mary’s closed in 1975, he oversaw the building of a more modern replacement with ancillary community facilities. During this time, he also became involved with industrial mission and was chaplain to Crabtree Vickers, Britain’s leading printing-machinery manufacturer, based in Leeds.

After five years as Rector of St Michael’s, Farnley, in 1982, he became Archdeacon of Leeds, a post that he held for ten years until retirement. A year later, he moved to Bradford and spent five years helping parishes in the city on a house-for-duty basis.

His many interests included classical music. He regularly attended concerts at Leeds Town Hall, and was a supporter of the Schulze organ at St Bartholomew’s, Armley, in Leeds.

A much respected priest, he lived alone and was active and independent until the last few weeks of his life. His older sister, Jean, who had been a missionary in West Africa, predeceased him in 2007.

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