Obituary: The Right Rev Frank West

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"THE COUNTRY parson must be a student of human nature, well aware of all its complexities. He must be gifted with humour, understanding, and patience."

So wrote Frank West in 1960, when he was Archdeacon of Newark, in his book The Country Parish Today and Tomorrow. Now, almost 40 years later, the wisdom which he packed into that influential book is as relevant as ever. He quoted Bishop Ken in support of the strict discipline of reciting the daily office in the church. He asserted that "the primary duty of a parish priest is to be the intercessor on behalf of the people". All his wisdom, and much more, made the book a classic.

There was soon a demand for a second edition, which appeared four years later. This attempted to look further into the future and to predict likely patterns of the church's ministry. To some extent, events may have overtaken his predictions; but on the whole they have been justified. He welcomed A.C. Smith's The South Ormsby Experiment in a review, calling it "the most significant essay in pastoral reorganisation since the war".

West was well equipped to write the book because he was a parish priest at heart. For the first eight years of his time as an archdeacon he was also the incumbent of a country parish in Nottinghamshire (Upton, followed by East Retford) until it was considered that the work of an archdeacon was too demanding to allow the double task; but he gave up his parish with real regret.

During this period, he found time to write three more books: Rude Fore- fathers, the story of an English Village, 1600-1666 (1949); The Great North Road in Nottinghamshire (1956); and Sparrows of the Spirit (1957), which gave fascinating glimpses into the life and work of country parish priests in Nottinghamshire from 1583 to 1911. This last book, full of lively touches, was the result of considerable research.

The success of these writings can be traced back to West's time at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read History and Theology. He enjoyed historical research, but that quest was deepened by a solid grounding in theology, which provided the Christian element and was linked to his intensely pastoral outlook. An example of his pastoral insight can be found in his book on the country parish: "Visiting is not out of date. Behind the practice there lies a solid theological principle - nothing less than the Incarnation itself. In the visit of the parson the people recognise the outward and visible sign of the Church's care for them as individuals." He saw a sacramental principle underlying the practice of visiting.

West was born in St Albans in 1909. After attending Berkhamsted School, he went to Cambridge as an exhibitioner. He went to Ridley Hall Theological College, to which he returned as Chaplain after a curacy in Leeds.

His appointment as Vicar of Starbeck, near Harrogate, from 1938, was interrupted by the Second World War. He served with distinction as a Chaplain to the Forces from 1939 to 1946. In France he was wounded and saw his batman killed. He returned to active service in North Africa, Italy and South East Asia, where he was mentioned in dispatches. This period of his life taught him much about human nature and about ministering to the spiritual needs of all types of people. The experience affected his subsequent ministry in civilian life.

After the war he was appointed Director of Service Ordination Candidates. The work involved interviewing countless men who offered themselves for ordination on being demobilised.

After 15 years as Archdeacon of Newark (1947-62), West was consecrated Bishop of Taunton. As suffragan to the Bishop of Bath and Wells, he found himself in the varied countryside of Somerset. It was the perfect setting for his rural interests, especially as he was able to combine the work with being a parish priest again. He and his family lived in the Old Rectory at Dinder, near Wells; and at the cathedral he enjoyed being a member of the Chapter as Prebendary of Dinder. After nine years, he again gave up his parish owing to an increasing workload; but he did so with extreme reluctance. In the village he was greatly popular. He visited regularly, established a notable Parish Communion service on Sundays, and re-ordered the furnishings of the medieval church in a simple and dignified way.

As suffragan bishop, many responsibilities came his way. One which he took very seriously was the direction of post-ordination training in the diocese. He held frequent meetings and discussions in his home.

West retired in 1977 to live in Aldbourne, near Marlborough. He developed a special ministry to schools, where his understanding of young people was greatly valued. He remained young in heart, and his warmth and humanity made him many friends. In 1980 he published a biography of F.R. Barry, Bishop of Southwell, under whom he had served as archdeacon. He produced his sixth and final book in 1987, The Story of a Wiltshire Country Church.

As he faced increasing infirmity, his wife Beryl remained faithfully at his side, as she had done throughout their happy marriage of more than 50 years.

Francis Horner West, priest: born St Albans, Hertfordshire 9 January 1909; ordained deacon 1933, priest 1934; Curate, St Agnes, Leeds 1933- 36; Chaplain, Ridley Hall, Cambridge 1936-38; Vicar of Starbeck 1938-42; Director of Service Ordination Candidates 1946-47; Vicar of Upton 1947- 51; Archdeacon of Newark 1947-62; Vicar of East Retford 1951-55; Bishop Suffragan of Taunton 1962-77; Prebendary of Wells 1962-77; Rector of Dinder, Somerset 1962-71; married 1947 Beryl Renwick (one son, one daughter); died Marlborough, Wiltshire 2 January 1999.

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