The Rev John Paul

Champion of City churches

John Wilfred Paul, priest: born Newcastle, New South Wales 7 March 1930; ordained deacon 1951, priest 1952; Vicar, St John's, Clapham 1959-65; Vicar, St Mary's, Balham 1966-85; Vicar, St Mary's and St John the Divine, Balham 1985-86; Rector, St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe with St Ann, Blackfriars 1986-2000; Rector, St James, Garlickhythe with St Michael, Queenhithe 1986-2000; married 1957 Lynette d'Archy (one son, two daughters); died London 16 January 2003.

John Paul crowned a 51-year ministry in the Church of England by making his semi-retirement City appointment into his most high-profile and influential. He became a champion of the City churches and a leading opponent of the ordination of women.

Born in 1930 in Australia, in Newcastle, next to Sydney, he attended Newcastle Boys High School. Later he entered St John's Theological College at Morpeth, up the coast, and was ordained at the age of 21.

In 1957 he married Lynette d'Archy and during the honeymoon in London unexpectedly began a long south London ministry by being made curate at the Ascension, Mitcham. His first living was at St John's, Clapham, and in 1965 he was appointed Vicar of St Mary's, Balham. With good liturgy and regular visiting he maintained a flourishing congregation for 20 years.

At the age of 55 he was appointed Rector of both St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe and St James, Garlickhythe, in the City. At first he was unaware of many City customs such as the open-air service on the site of St Ann, Blackfriars, but he entered into the annual cycle of events with enthusiasm. He twice rode in the Lord Mayor's coach as Chaplain and added to the calendar by introducing the beating of the parish bounds.

He worked a 16-hour day and took few holidays. He twice presided over the restoration of St James's: a 170ft-high crane crashed through the roof of the just-completed building in 1991. He took particular pride in renewing the figure of St James the Great dressed as a pilgrim on the outdoor clock. Pilgrims to St James's shrine in Santiago de Compostela once left by ship from the parish quay and Paul provided a stamp which now enables cycling and walking pilgrims setting out for Spain to have their credentials franked at the church.

John Paul became aware of growing stress among City workers and insisted on his churches' being open. In 1994 he organised immediate opposition to the Templeman Report, which recommended closing St Andrew's and other churches. He called it "an utterly flawed document based on market forces management" and described the passion for relevance as "a psychosomatic illness bedevilling the Church and spoiling her mission".

Clergy colleagues found him too blunt but they had already experienced his strong views in 1992 when he opposed the ordination of "priestesses". During the first ordination service to include women candidates at St Paul's Cathedral he staged a Solemn Dirge outside.

He maintained a Catholic tradition but, as a strong supporter of the Prayer Book, made St James's the headquarters of the Prayer Book Society and persuaded the Prince of Wales to visit. Before retiring in 2000 John Paul enjoyed welcoming the Bishop of London as one of St Andrew's few resident parishioners.

Leigh Hatts

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