OBITUARY: Canon Douglas Rhymes

Douglas Rhymes was one of the unsung heroes of the turbulent years when Mervyn Stockwood was Bishop of Southwark, and South Bank Religion was all the rage. Although not recruited to the chapter at Southwark by Stockwood, Rhymes spent almost his entire ministry in the diocese, and was proud of having been appointed a minor canon, a residentiary canon and an honorary canon, ending up in 1984 as canon emeritus.

Rhymes was born in 1914. He was educated at King Edward VI School, Birmingham, and at Birmingham University, and trained for the priesthood at Ripon Hall. He served as assistant curate at Dovercourt in Essex, and in 1943 enlisted as an army chaplain. It was in 1950 that he was appointed sacrist at Southwark by Stockwood's predecessor, Bertram Simpson, "a charming person and a very good bishop in his way" as Rhymes used to recall. "But he would get his mitre all skew-whiff and sit any old how on his throne, showing his suspenders." When contributing reminiscences last summer for a forthcoming biography of Mervyn Stockwood, Douglas Rhymes described Southwark, in Simpson's day, as "a perfectly ordinary, normal diocese". He was one of those who made sure it did not long remain so.

In 1962 Mervyn Stockwood put Douglas Rhymes in charge of lay training, made him canon librarian and invited him to teach ethics to the newly created Southwark Ordination Course, a bold appointment at the time, for although Rhymes had yet to make public his own sexual orientation, neither Stockwood nor the chairman of the Ordination Course's college council, the Bishop of Woolwich, John Robinson, would have been in any doubt that he was homosexual. In 1964 Rhymes made his own considerable contribution to that unprecedented period of theological and sexual exploration with probably his most important book, No New Morality. And when, in an article in the London Evening Standard in 1963, Stockwood came to delineate the term South Bank Religion he made specific reference to sexual ethics, with the sermons of Douglas Rhymes in mind.

Having served faithfully a radical cathedral chapter he referred to as "the most difficult you could ever have, a bit like the Ministry of all the Talents", in 1968 Rhymes surprised those who did not know him better by gently withdrawing from the ecclesiastical fray. He was inducted first as vicar of St Giles, Camberwell, and in 1976 moved to Woldingham as parish priest. Eventually he retired to Fontwell, West Sussex.

Much to Mervyn Stockwood's astonishment, for he abhorred all church assemblies, Douglas Rhymes was a member of the General Synod for a decade from 1975. In debate he always spoke pastorally, for he was at heart a parish priest and a loving and lovable man, with a streak of Anglican eccentricity that endeared him to many of his friends, but not necessarily those whose briefcases he absent-mindedly wandered off with after Synod sessions. He was, generally, accident-prone. Returning once from a holiday in Cornwall he stopped off to have a bathe, only to have his car, and all the clothes he had left inside it, stolen. Decently kitted out again, he returned to Cornwall to retrieve his car, the police having found it - and promptly drove it into a wall.

Among the recreations he listed in Who's Who was conversation, an art in which he excelled. He was much more interested in other people than himself and had the perfect manners of a born listener.

Michael De-la-Noy

Douglas Alfred Rhymes, priest: born 26 March 1914; ordained deacon 1940, priest 1941; Sacrist, Southwark Cathedral 1950-54, Canon Residentiary and Librarian 1962-69 (Honorary Canon 1969, Canon Emeritus 1984); Vicar, All Saints, New Eltham 1954-62; Director of Lay Training, Diocese of Southwark 1962-68; Vicar, St Giles, Camberwell 1968-76; Parish Priest, Woldingham 1976-84; died Chichester 1 January 1996.

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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future