OBITUARY : Canon Peter Penwarden

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The Independent Online
Peter Penwarden spent his retirement in a flat with a view of Salisbury Cathedral, sipping dry sherry and sharing his dry humour with friends as he delighted in the well-manicured lawn. But for 25 years he had been a parish priest in south London and for 20 he had administered the daily life of Southwark Cathedral, a building not entirely unfit to be placed in the same category as Salisbury but surrounded by traffic, offices and a market. Whether relishing beauty or working hard to create it, he was typical of the Church of England at its most attractive.

Penwarden's childhood in Devon was followed by an education in what were then strongholds of a moderate Anglo-Catholicism, Keble College, Oxford, and Lincoln Theological College. His long spells in parishes in New Eltham and South Wimbledon developed him as a pastor in the steady, central tradition of Anglicanism: he drew people to dignified worship by taking great care of it and of individuals and by thoughtful, well-phrased preaching. But his real fulfilment came when he was appointed Vice-Provost of Southwark in 1971.

He was a number two who never let anyone down - not the staff under him or the voluntary helpers or the regular congregation, and certainly neither of the two Provosts in his time. Harold Frankham had been a businessman who after ordination had transformed Luton Parish Church. Now he began a campaign to raise a million pounds to restore and extend a great church which had grown dirty and inadequate. I had been Dean of Norwich with a habit of writing. Penwarden kept a busy church going very happily under the two of us.

And he lived to be rewarded. Inch by inch, the historic fabric was cleaned and beautiful thingsadded. A restaurant, meeting places, vestries, offices, toilets, arose between the church and the river bank. Concerts and meticulously organised services for national or local bodies became regular. The consecrations of bishops held there were reckoned to be not only better but also quicker than elsewhere. The choir rose to very near the level expected in much richer cathedrals. And the heart of this life was the Eucharist - every Sunday for a gathered congregation, every weekday lunchtime for those working nearby or visiting.

Penwarden was an efficient churchman. But the Glaziers' Company enjoyed him as their chaplain. Through friendship with him the accountants in Price Waterhouse came to sing carols. People who wanted a good meal knew who would be fun to be with and people in distress knew where they could find a sensitive counsellor. He was more than a churchman. He was a much- loved priest.

Peter Herbert Penwarden, priest: born Walthamstow 10 April 1921; Curate, All Saints, New Eltham 1944-49; Vicar, All Saints, South Wimbledon 1949- 61; Vicar, Benhilton 1961-71; Vice-Provost of Southwark 1971-91; Canon Residentiary, Southwark Cathedral 1971-91; died Salisbury 25 March 1995.