Obituary: Canon Roger Hooker

ROGER HOOKER often quoted the saying that the question of other faiths was the biggest issue to face the Christian churches since Darwin. Forty years of his adult life were spent engaged with those issues at every level: theological, social, emotional, and personal. After 13 years as a Church Mission Society (CMS) missionary in India, he became widely respected and consulted as a Christian authority on inter-faith relations in Britain.

Hooker was born in Hove in 1934, and educated at Charterhouse and Oxford. Ordained in 1960, he was a curate in Stockton-on-Tees and then trained as a CMS missionary, during which time he met his future wife Pat, the daughter of Max Warren, who was general secretary of the society. Max Warren provided Hooker with an incomparable theological partnership; from 1965 to 1978 they corresponded weekly between Britain and India.

Initially Roger and Pat Hooker ran a hostel for Indian boys in Agra before moving first, in 1969, to Bareilly, where Roger lectured at the North India United Theological College, and then to Varanasi (Benares), where he was himself a student at the Sampurhanda Sanskrit University. From that experience, and the systematic reflection on it in correspondence with Max Warren, came the quiet confidence and the wide sympathy of a rare missionary personality.

One of Hooker's stories was about the Hindu friend who told him that Christian missionaries didn't usually think it worthwhile to spend time with people like himself. Hooker reacted against the strategy-driven Christian thinking which that story illustrates. Like other Christian ministers in frontier situations he adopted the principle of "loitering with intent". He was always willing to meet people as individuals and never simply as potential converts.

He spent years acquiring a thorough grasp of Hindi and Sanskrit, and wrote a highly acclaimed doctoral thesis on the contemporary Hindi novel (soon to be published in India as The Quest of Ajneya). While never uncritical of the waywardness of the Indian church or the image-obsessed English one, he gave his energies to both. He lit up national and local church committees with the wisdom born of long experience.

He had a fund of often hilarious and always illuminating stories. My favourite was his description of an inter-faith meeting in Varanasi where people read extracts from their own scriptures. His own offering from the New Testament in Hindi was met with disappointment, and the question why he had not read it in the language of Jesus - English. "But English was not Jesus's language, and if I had read it in Greek, you would not have understood a word!" "Why should that matter? We would still be hearing the words of God!"

On returning to England in 1978, he and Pat lived first in Selly Oak, Birmingham, engaged in the training of missionaries at Crowther Hall, and then settled in Smethwick, where he acted as a consultant to the Birmingham churches on inter-faith relations. Hooker was in demand nationally as speaker and consultant on Hinduism to the Archbishops, and participated in the creative period of the British Council of Churches' engagement with other faith communities.

In his last years he began a deeper engagement with Judaism, and his 1996/97 Teape lectures, published as Narrating our Nations, reflect his growing concern with the way that religion, and specifically a theology of the land, can be used to underpin an exclusive sense of communal identity. Few topics could be more important to believers and non- believers alike in most countries of the world, and not least in the Middle East and in India.

Christopher Lamb

Roger Hardham Hooker, priest: born Hove, Sussex 21 September 1934; ordained deacon 1960, priest 1961; CMS mission partner in India 1965-78; Tutor, Crowther Hall, Selly Oak 1979-82, Diocesan Missioner, Birmingham 1982- 98; Honorary Canon, Birmingham Cathedral 1989-98; married 1943 Pat Warren (one son, one daughter); died Smethwick, West Midlands 11 January 1999.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Arts and Entertainment
Blue singer Simon Webbe will be confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing

tv
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition