Tuesday, January 06, 2009

John Fenton: The Times Obituary

The Times obituary of John Fenton has just been published, and it includes a picture of a young looking John Fenton, minus the distinctive long white hair:

The Rev Canon John Fenton: Canon of Christ Church, Oxford

It is all, of course, worth reading, but here is a particularly fine excerpt:
In 1965 he was appointed Principal of St Chad’s College, Durham. The college stopped training ordinands and became a college of the university with a particular emphasis on theology and Christian formation. Fenton was ideal for effecting these changes because he combined a real understanding of secularism with a prayerful life. It was at Durham, too, that he enhanced his reputation as a preacher, whose sermons were radical, simple, witty and marked by a freshness of approach to the scriptural texts. His stimulating preaching was attractive to conservative and radical minds, and led to a series of exegetical articles, which he wrote for several years in The Church Times. It was also at Durham that he developed an eccentricity of appearance — large frame, flowing locks, untidy cassock and billowing cloak. A bad back caused him to walk with a stoop.

Fenton inspired a great deal of affection from students and colleagues. He was interested in individuals, an excellent listener, tolerant, lovable and benign. Yet the affection was tinged with awe, for there was a darker, more troubled, even subversive, side to his character. He would make surprise remarks, which were mischievous to the point of perversity. A cathedral congregation was disturbed to hear that God hated them, and readers of Theology were amazed to read an interpretation of the narratives of the Lord’s Supper which appeared cannibalistic.
I remember hearing that too, and a range of other gems.

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