Obituary: The Most Rev Frank Woods

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The Independent Online
Frank Woods, priest, born Davos Switzerland 6 April 1907, ordained deacon 1931, priest 1932, Curate St Mary's Portsea 1932-33, Chaplain Trinity College Cambridge 1933-36, Vice-Principal Wells Theological College 1936-39, Chaplain to the Forces 1939-45, Vicar of Huddersfield 1945-52, Chaplain to the King 1951-52, Suffragan Bishop of Middleton 1952-57, Archbishop of Melbourne 1957-77, Primate of Australia 1971-77, KBE 1972, married 1936 Jean Sprules (two sons, two daughters), died Melbourne 29 November 1992.

WE can only guess what it cost Frank Woods to leave England and those strong family ties which meant so much to him, writes the Very Rev Ingram Cleasby. But whatever reluctance he may have felt, he gave himself entirely and whole-heartedly to his adoptive country and the Church over which he was to preside for the next 20 years. So much so that he became 'an Australian by conversion', as he liked to put it.

His earlier ministry as a parish priest in Huddersfield, where he was vicar and rural dean in the immediate post-war years, was marked by a warmth and generosity which made him irresistible and touched all alike - the local industrialist or staunch Methodist no less than members of the Youth Club or the sick and dying. Woods was a charmer: perhaps the old fashioned word 'winsome' best describes him.

Although he was a compelling and often brilliant preacher like his father Edward Woods, Bishop of Lichfield, he was above all a man of prayer - again like his father: one in whom this daily communion with God was the ground both of his humility and his concern for individuals. If he was late for a meeting or forgot an appointment it was more likely than not that he had stayed too long listening to someone's problems, or had seized an opportunity to hear about some new development or local issue. Both in Huddersfield and later in Manchester he was notorious for this, but it was simply that he was too generous with himself and his time. Like his lists of those to be remembered in his prayers, there was never enough space for them all.

The range of his concerns at Huddersfield - his recognition of the challenge of the workplace, the importance of education and the family, and the claims of social justice - all set the pattern for his future ministry in Australia. If he tried too often to cram a quart into a pint-pot there must be very many both in Huddersfield and Manchester who thank God that they were among those - of all denominations and none - for whom Frank Woods had time to share his love of God, his concern for the Church and the world, and to encourage them on their way.

(Photograph omitted)