Friday, 16 January 2009

Keith Nelmes

Keith was a lovely man. He was the Diocesan Surveyor (the man who looked after the diocese’s portfolio of parsonage houses) for nineteen years. He’d not felt well for a while, went to the doctor at the beginning of December, and had died before Christmas, aged 60. And hardly a meeting of two members of the clergy has taken place since at which appreciation and sadness has not been expressed.

We all have stories of his sitting at the kitchen table, enquiring after our families and our work, and managing to say ‘yes’ to most of what we asked. This wasn’t a coincidence of a nice man doing a job which happened to bring him into contact with clergy families: he had read research which said how parsonage life and conditions can be a factor in breaking up clergy marriages and he was actually ministering to us.

I posted on 27th November about the new Rectory here. It was he who had searched widely and diligently (if fruitlessly) for a new Rectory for this parish in the late 1990s. It was he who saw though the whole project to build a more than suitable house when a plot finally became available. I remember endless negotiations with planners, and an eventual meeting with them at which they outlined what would be acceptable and he removed plans they had rejected a year earlier from near the bottom of a large pile and said ‘would something like this do?’.

Over three hundred people (including a number of the contractors who do work on our houses) were at a service to celebrate his life in the Cathedral yesterday afternoon. Several people spoke affectionately about him, including the Bishop, who also made a link in John’s Gospel between the question ‘where are you staying (meneis)?’, which are the first words spoken to Jesus, and the commandments and promises to remain (meneite) in God’s love; one of the first things about us is where our home is, and the last things about us is that our home is in God’s love. And the Diocesan Director of Ordinands read ‘It was on a Monday morning the gasman came to call’.

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