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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?