One of the fascinating aspects of the Discover deCrypt project has been the unexpected incidents that hearten and place what we are doing firmly into a continuing context of history. In amongst the business of getting the project agreed on many fronts and financed there have been sudden realisations that we are becoming part of that history that we have held in awe and indeed cherished, in my case for 55 years.
One such incident occurred when we realised that, in the urge to move from ‘mere’ development to construction, ashes entrusted to the care of St Mary de Crypt (SMDC) had to be re-sited in order to allow the contractors to dig up the floor. The ashes are probably the only ones to be buried in the church, a special case being made out of regard for a previous rector (1970’s), Canon David Paton and, later, his wife Alison. David had been a missionary in China, was a chaplain to the Queen; he was also founding chair of Gloucester Civic Trust. A man before his time, who championed the Movement For The Ordination Of Women; SMDC PCC was the first corporate member. It was David’s close connection with Florence Li Tim-Oi (the first woman to be ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Communion in 1944), and his standing as a progressive that enabled SMDC to take part in a communion service celebrated by her at SMDC (with the Bishop’s quiet agreement).
David’s memorial service at SMDC was an important occasion. The service sheet bore the legend in Mandarin script:
|(Visionary, Priest, Mentor, Friend)
That tribute came to life again when, because of David and Alison’s engagement with Gloucester people we were able, despite the elapsed years, to make contact with the family in St Albans within 24 hours to get their blessing for the re-siting of the ashes. They will also attend the short service of re-committal.
But back to the continuing context of history. David Paton achieved great things for us in the 1970’s, not least with the restoration Save St Mary’s For A Living Future. And here he is, still playing a part in that vision.
(Churchwarden St Mary de Crypt Church)