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Recollections

by
08 April 2022

Canon Brian Stevenson writes:

FURTHER to Timothy Pritchard’s fine obituary of the Revd Brother Ælred OC (Gazette, 18 February), I would like to affirm, as his Vicar for 23 years, a few of his qualities . First, his wonderful tomatoes, which were on a small commercial scale at Ewell and wonderfully flavoursome. When I told a number of people in West Malling, Kent, about his death, they replied, “Holy tomatoes.” I still miss them, and it was fitting that at the post-funeral meal we had tomato and cheese sandwiches, and that the chicken-satay sticks were embedded in bull tomatoes

He had a fine singing voice, and it was a joy to hear him sing, from memory, the intercessions and the eucharistic prayer both in the Ewell Chapel Barn and at Malling Abbey.

Like Ælred, I am a member of Queens’ College, Cambridge, and we were both influenced by the Dean, Henry Hart. We attended his overflowing memorial service in the chapel and the lunch that followed.

When I went on holiday, Ælred encouraged me to visit other Cistercian monasteries, and, among others, in Belgium, I liked Orval on the French border and its refreshing beer on a hot summer’s day. I brought him back photos of Sénanque Abbey, in Provence, with its lavender fields. I was there on 1 April 2005, the eve of Pope John Paul II’s death: a French pilgrim told us God would not let him die on All Fools’ Day. Fr Ælred was amused by that.

He himself died in the same week as the feast of Ælred of Rievaulx, the saint of friendship. Fr Ælred had many friends, and they all enjoyed walking in Ewell monastery through the large snowdrop plantation, which was in full flower on the day of his funeral, Candlemas.

The Revd Bernice Broggio writes: I was sad to hear of the death of my friend and former colleague the Revd Tony Crowe (Gazette, 18 March). I served my seven-year diaconate with him at St Luke’s, Charlton, during his last seven years there. He waited for my priesting until he retired early; his advanced thinking and actions made it impossible for him to move parishes without the possibility of incurring litigation.

Tony was a priest ahead of his time. His passion for inclusiveness — the ministry of women priests, accepting and blessing gay couples, his socialism — made him a headache for the powers that be in the 1990s; but the Church has now, largely, caught up with him.

Although he could have an acerbic tongue, he was a very good parish priest, fun to work with, conscientious, hard-working, and with many useful strategies for building and caring for a congregation. I learned a great deal from him, which I endeavoured to take into my ministry.

For his many interests, like Palestine and the Living Stones, he travelled all over London on a little moped, and transported his family in a rather larger pantechnicon. He was well supported and sometimes “supervised” by Ailsa, his wife, with their lively family of six children, along with a lovely large shaggy dog.

Tony completed his ministry in the Prison Service, having learned from and supported another colleague, the Revd Jean Griffiths, in her ministry at HM Prison Brixton.

Tony’s legacy includes a flourishing, inclusive, mixed-race, lively parish of St Luke, now with St Thomas’s, in Charlton, and a number of active lay and priestly ministries, including that of the current incumbent, whose calling he stimulated and supported.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

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