Obituary: Prebendary Douglas Cleverley Ford

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The Independent Online
Prebendary Douglas Cleverley Ford was a man of great ability. During a ministry of nearly 60 years he served his generation well - mainly in four spheres.

The first was as a parish priest: after a curacy in the seaside town of Bridlington in Yorkshire he became vicar of Holy Trinity, Hampstead (1942-55), then vicar of Holy Trinity with All Saints, South Kensington, near the Royal Albert Hall (1955-74). In both these churches he built up the congregations by the excellence of his preaching, to which he gave meticulous care, by his insistence on good music, and by his pastoral skill. People knew that if they went to him, especially if they were in trouble or perplexity, they would find a listening ear and an understand- ing mind. They knew that they mattered - to him and to God.

Secondly, he worked as a theological college lecturer and as the first Honorary Director of the College of Preachers (1960-73). He was a graduate of the London College of Divinity, after obtaining his degrees of at London University, and he served his college as lecturer over many years. His students found in him a man who could speak with an authority derived from sound scholarship combined with pastoral experience. He had a lively mind.

The College of Preachers was born in 1960 as the result of a small conference of people concerned with the poor state of preaching in the Church of England. It had no buildings and little finance. Its courses were held in a variety of places throughout the country. The college was fortunate in having Cleverley Ford as its first Director - a task which he combined with his parochial work, to the benefit of both. Many hundreds of clergy as well as Readers have him to thank for his care, for the lucidity of his lectures, and for the renewal of their preaching work. He did more than any other man of his generation in raising the standard of preaching in the Church of England.

The third sphere in which he excelled was as senior chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury (1975-80). During my years in that office I benefited greatly from his work. In the nature of the case, that was mainly "behind the scenes". He was a man of sound judgement with whom one could share many of the problems which come to one's desk at Lambeth. He had a shrewd assessment of character. He was loved by the staff at Lambeth, and his secretaries would do anything for him.

His fourth skill was as a writer. Over many years, he wrote prolifically, bearing in mind those to whom he had lectured. He desired to enable preachers to do their work with honesty and enthusiasm and to enlist all the help at their disposal in making preaching what it is intended to be - intelligent, interesting, down to earth.

The influence of his writings however went far beyond the men and women in the pulpit. Through his books (such as Preaching Today, 1969; God's Masterpieces, 1991), through articles, through the notes he constantly wrote for the Bible Reading Fellowship, he reached many thousands of readers.

As a man, he was quiet. Like the Servant in Isaiah, he did "not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street". He did not need to. Some would say he was reserv-ed; but those who knew him best enjoyed his deliciously keen sense of humour which lighten-ed many a difficult situation.

Among the honours that came to him, he was Rural Dean of Westminster (1965-74), Chaplain to the Queen (1973-84), and Prebendary of St Pauls.

Donald Coggan

Douglas William Cleverley Ford, priest: born 4 March 1914; ordained deacon 1937, priest 1938; married 1939 Olga Bewley (died 1993); died Lingfield, Surrey 4 May 1996.