Obituary: Canon David Diamond

David John Diamond, priest, born London 31 December 1935, ordained deacon 1962, priest 1963, Rector of Deptford 1969-92, Honorary Canon of Southwark Cathedral 1973-92, Rural Dean of Deptford 1974-80, died 31 August 1992.

DAVID DIAMOND was one of the most remarkable parish priests in the Church of England. His sudden death last week at the age of 56 has shocked the community of Deptford, south-east London, where since 1969 he had been rector of St Paul's Church.

Diamond was born in London in 1935 and grew up in Streatham. He was educated at the Strand Grammar School, and, after a short-service commission in the Army, at Leeds University and St Stephen's House, Oxford. He was ordained in 1962 to St John's Tue Brook, Liverpool. As a curate in Liverpool in the mid-Sixties Diamond had founded a remarkably successful youth club, with 800 members. In Deptford he found a magnificent but derelict church with a handful of worshippers, and little link with the community. It was a desperate situation, with the building ripe for closure. His achievement was not merely to make the beautifully restored church a flourishing centre of faith and worship, but to rekindle hope in an entire community, one of the most run-down in London.

In 1969, the diocese of Southwark was noted for its radical 'south bank' theology, largely influenced by John Robertson of Honest to God fame. A heavily resourced and publicised experiment in parish ministry in Woolwich, conducted according to the spirit of those times, had recently ended in apparent failure. Bishop Mervyn Stockwood had the vision to try a quite different approach by appointing Diamond to Deptford.

He was, unfashionably, an out- and-out Anglo-Catholic, an incense, biretta and Benediction priest. When others were tearing off their dog-collars and dropping ecclesiastical titles, he revelled and delighted in his priesthood. But not in a solemn or starchy manner - the people of Deptford came to share this delight, knowing him as their father in God. This was especially true of Deptford's many young offenders and there were few prisons where his arrival would not be greeted by delighted shouts of 'Farv', as he was universally known.

Diamond's approach was that everything was for the whole community, not simply for a church 'club'. Everyone belonged in the Church, because everyone was loved by God. He had no time for any introverted church 'fellowship' that cut people off from their neighbours in the community.

He was a great organiser of community events and the Deptford Festival became famous, with its street parties, royal visits, flamboyant firework displays and fun for all on the grandest scale. The pensioners' outing, for example: there had to be a thousand pensioners. A cannon would be fired and 20 coaches would set off, with the narrow high street lined by every infant and primary school, cheering and waving flags, the procession led by a brass band. It brought everyone together and made everyone feel they mattered, that Deptford was a great place to be.

Fr David was no academic theologian, but his remarkable ministry expressed deep theological insight. In the Sixties the Church was concerned at the divide between sacred and secular, and the radical element resolved the division by abandoning the sacred as a distinctive sphere. Fr David adored the sacred and he adored the secular, and he led others - a whole community - to see how the sacred could adorn and grace the secular. The centre of the Deptford Festival was always the Festival Mass and people with no background or previous interest in Christianity came and knew that it was somehow for them. It was a combination of spectacular fun and deep devotion. In it, one felt, God was reclaiming His creation. That was the hallmark of David Diamond's ministry. He was a man of extraordinary generosity.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot