Obituary: The Ven David Walser

Click to follow
The Independent Online
David Walser, priest: born Canada 12 March 1923: ordained deacon 1950, priest 1951; Vice-Principal, St Stephen's House, Oxford 1954-60; minor canon, Ely Cathedral 1961-70; Chaplain, King's School, Ely 1961-71; Vicar of Linton 1971-81; Rector of Bartlow 1973-81; Rural Dean, Linton 1976-81; Rector, St Botolph's, Cambridge 1981- 93; Archdeacon of Ely and Honorary Canon 1981-93; married 1975 Elizabeth Shillito; died Cambridge 1 October 1993.

DAVID WALSER retired earlier this year after 12 arduous years as Archdeacon of Ely, and the news of his death will have given sadness to his many friends in his diocese, clerical and lay.

Walser read History and Theology at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, after four years of war service with the Royal Artillery and Royal Indian Mountain Artillery (in which he had been Regimental Captain Quartermaster). He exemplified all his life the discipline of the priesthood inculcated at St Stephen's House, Oxford, in the days when Canon Arthur Couratin was Principal. After a four-year curacy in Bristol Walser returned to Oxford for a period of six years, to be his Vice-Principal .

A firm life of prayer, with a care for well-ordered public worship, was the secure basis of his ministry. After a 10-year chaplaincy of the King's School and a minor canonry at Ely, and a year of hospital chaplaincy which gave him a sure tact for ministering to the sick, Walser's work was entirely on the ground in the diocese, as parish priest, rural dean, and archdeacon. It was a warm-hearted ministry, which was valued all the more since it had previously lain under the auspices of someone whose natural quietness of manner was reinforced, by a touch of what was once called 'the principle of reserve'.

Walser was at home with the gentlemen of the road (and the door of St Botolph's Rectory, his base for his work as archdeacon, was always likely to have one of them at it), who passed through Cambridge and would call for their tea and sandwich. The hospitality Walser and his wife, Elizabeth, showed to the clergy and their wives - particularly at moments of professional or domestic crisis - was a feature of a senior ministry which the Church of England should be careful not to lose.

Efficient in organisation, able in the chair, clear on matters of church order (he belonged to the Catholic tradition of the Church of England), an original member of the Ecclesiastical Law Society, Walser was an admirable example of the human face of ecclesiastical administration: personally involved in pastoral reorganisation and its implementation, knowing the people and places, trusted by incumbents and churchwardens and by his bishops.

The same qualities lay behind the achievement of the sharing of St Clement's Parish Church, Cambridge - of which he took charge, in addition to St Botolph's, while also looking after the busiest archdeaconry of the diocese - with the Greek Orthodox congregation in Cambridge. In this, as in all ecclesiastical matters, he was trusted, because it was known both where he stood on principle and also that he would seek the equitable and pragmatic pastoral solution, which would be compatible with principle.

His marriage, in 1975, to Dr Elizabeth Shillito, gave him great happiness. Her devotion to him in a long final illness, and his own fortitude, were remarked upon. He never lost touch with his school Clayesmore, in Dorset, and was many years a governor.