Obituary: Canon Raymond Hammer

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The Independent Online
Raymond Jack Hammer, theologian and priest: born London 4 July 1920; Assistant Curate, St Mark's, St Helens 1943-46; Senior Tutor, St John's College, Durham 1946-49; Professor in Doctrine, St Paul's University, Tokyo 1958-64; Chaplain, British Embassy, Tokyo 1954-64; Honorary Canon, St Michael's Cathedral, Kobe, Japan 1964-94; Lecturer, Queen's College, Birmingham and Lecturer in Theology, Birmingham University 1965-77; Director, Bible Reading Fellowship 1977- 85; Secretary to Archbishops' Consultants 1983-92; Librarian, Worcester Diocesan Library 1989-94; married 1949 Vera Reed (two daughters); died Redditch 14 January 1994.

RAYMOND HAMMER and his wife Vera offered themselves for service with the Church Missionary Society in 1950 and sailed for Japan, where Raymond took up a post on the staff of the Central Theological College in Tokyo. To serve in that country after the Second World War and in a church that was of modest proportions with all the effects of wartime deprivation was itself a challenge. When one adds the task of learning the language and adapting to a formal culture it can be appreciated that the couple faced formidable obstacles. For Raymond Hammer it was a time of significant achievement. Along with the growth of his family the number of his engagements increased too. He was promoted from Lecturer to Professor at St Paul's University, Tokyo, and became Director of the International Institute for Religious Teaching, Chairman of the Tokyo Ecumenical Discussion Group and eventually Secretary of the National Christian Council for Japan.

In Japan's Religious Ferment (1961), part of a series edited by Canon Max Warren, Hammer shows an impressive level of scholarship for someone who had arrived in that country only a decade earlier. His appointment in 1964 as an Honorary Canon of Kobe Cathedral was a sign of the great esteem in which he was held by his fellow Christian Japanese. He was also chaplain to the British Embassy.

Hammer had an obvious vocation for the Anglican ministry and a gift for theological study. He received his early education in London, but he and his parentsmoved to the North-west shortly afterwards. It was as a pupil at the Liverpool Institute that Hammer revealed his intellectual powers and earned a place at St Peter's College, Oxford. He took his BA Hons whilst a student at Wycliffe Hall and received his MAin 1943. He was ordained deacon in Liverpool Cathedral in 1943, serving a title at St Helen's. Though learning his pastoral skills, he continued to study, achieving his Bachelor of Divinity status in 1945. It was his skill in this field that led to his appointment as Tutor at St John's College, Durham, in 1946, where he later became Senior Tutor.

The Hammer family returned to England in 1964 and while Raymond was a theology Lecturer at Queen's College, Birmingham, he was made Director of the new Non-Stipendiary Ministry course for the West Midlands. This enabled men with full-time professional or occupational careers to train as part-time clergy (an opportunity now extended to women).

It was from this post that Hammer came to the vacant chair of Director of the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF), the main Anglican organisation to assist in the reading and understanding of the Holy Scriptures. His predecessor, Ian Thompson, had laid solid foundations for the work, and it was these which Hammer, with his considerable theological expertise, built on.

He took in hand the selection of new writers and designs for the Fellowship. Circulation had fallen and it was Hammer's first task to reverse the trend. In this he largely succeeded, but his heart was set on a more ambitious project. Following a tentative lead by Thompson he was eager that notable theological writers contribute works on scriptural themes. In securing such authors, Hammer displayed one of his great gifts, he seemed to know everyone that mattered.

Licensed to officiate by the Diocese of London from 1977 he had also assisted with the NSM Course at Southwark and gave some help there even after his work at BRF had ended. Hammer was also licensed in Coventry and Worcester dioceses and continued to exercise his ministry there.

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