Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Sunday 5 May 2024

Fr John Hunwicke RIP

Although it was not altogether unexpected the news last week of the death of Fr John Hunwicke still shocked and greatly saddened me.

I first became aware of him, before I went to Oxford, through the Ordo published by the Church Union which set out clearly and in great detail a wide series of options for saying the Daily Office for those of an Anglo-Catholic persuasion. Fr Hunwicke edited this each year and enquiries were to be sent to him at that citadel of Anglo-Catholic formation, Lancing College.

Some years later when I was a daily attender at Pusey House I met Fr Hunwicke who was there on a study visit. Now I could put a face and an identity to the name. Here was a man of great erudition and one who was also entertaining, with not a little of engaging English eccentricity. This acquaintance deepened and I saw why he was appreciated as a teacher and guide.

At that time he and his wife were living in retirement in north-west Devon and I distinctly recall thinking during the vacancy at St Thomas’ where I was Churchwarden that Fr Hunwicke was just the sort of parish priest the church needed, but alas, he was retired. A few months later, after my reception at the Oratory, I was delighted to be told that Fr Hunwicke was returning to active ministry as Vicar of St Thomas’. I went to his induction, when he graciously cited my history of the church and said in front of the Bishop of Oxford and the congregation that the floor having been paid for in part by John Henry Newman ( still then an Agnglican in the early 1840s) that if “we stand on a floor laid by John Henry Newman we shall not go far wrong.”

It was at St Thomas’ that he was persuaded to start his blog and its wide readership is testimony to his breadth of knowledge and skill in presenting ideas - in part no doubt the legacy of teaching Classics at Lancing. His anniversary of Ordination liturgy at St Thomas’ was one of those services you simply had to have been at, “a simple prayer book service in a little back street church“ using the ‘62 service book ( guess which ), a celebration of his faithful ministry but also of a vision, a very Oxford vision, of what the Ecclesia Anglicana might be.

With the advent of the Ordinariate wand his wife were received at the Oxford Oratory in a service I attended and I was present when he was finally ordained as a priest in full communion with the Holy See. For a man of such clear Anglo-Papalist sympathies and one who felt so keenly a sense of communion with late medieval and sixteenth century English Catholics that raised scruples with him, but ordained he was. As I said as I knelt for his First Blessing outside the Oratory that evening “ Not before time!”.

As Dr Shaw of the LMS has demonstrated in his obituary the succeeding years saw an active and lively ministry as tutor, scholar and blogger based in Oxford.

I am very grateful for having known him and shall miss not just our conversations when we met but also the fact of knowing someone who would know the answer, or a possible answer, to so many obscure, but always, fascinating questions. I can see him seeking out a new ministry in the afterlife as chaplain to his great hero the fourteenth century Bishop John de Grandison of Exeter.

May he rest in peace.


Matthew F Kluk said...

His blog is marvelous. I hope somehow it can be maintained. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. (Hopefully in the chaplaincy you describe).

Zephyrinus said...

Dear John.

A magnificent Eulogy to Fr. John Hunwicke (R.I.P.).

Thank you.

in Domino

Marc in Eugene said...

Many thanks for this remembrance of Father Hunwicke.