Friday 18 December 2009

Eric Waldram Kemp, Bishop R.I.P

The farewell to Bishop Eric managed to be both large-scale and intimate. Despite the snow, which prevented many from being present, the Cathedral was comfortably full , and the singing stirring. The music began with the organist playing selections from the Gilbert & Sullivan Operas, and ended with Wagner. That caught something of the man; a quiet English sense of humour, and a European seriousness. Representatives from other churches - Chartres Cathedral, where he was a Canon, Orthodox and Free-Churches, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor - witnessed to his wideranging friendships and his concern for Christian Unity.

His successor as Diocesan, John Hind, presided at the concelebrated Funeral Mass, along with the other Bishops, Archdeacons and Area Deans of the diocese. His children spoke affectionately of his reading to them at bed-time, and themselves read to us from the end of the Lord of the Rings. Occasional interjections and squeaks from assorted grandchildren lightened the whole proceedings. Richard Eyre, who had served as Archdeacon during Bishop Eric's episcopate, gave an address which ranged from his Lincolnshire childhood through the influence on him of Pusey House and Oxford, his service as Chaplain of Exeter College then as Dean of Worcester and eventually to his consecration as Bishop of Chichester.

For myself, I shall miss him hugely. My memories of him go back to my undergraduate days when he was President of the Oxford University Church Union - a power in the land in that distant time. I learned all I ever needed to know about chairing meetings from his handling of the Committee of that body, and later of the Executive Committee of the English Church Union of which he was President. He was Chairman of the Council of St Stephen's House during my time there as Principal. My senior by twenty years, he was always a model of what a priest and a bishop might be; and he was unfailingly supportive and helpful whenever I turned to him. He will be greatly missed.

Requiescat. Jesu, mercy. Mary, pray.

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