Sunday, March 12, 2023

Vale Fr Ron Smith (and other news)

Life is intensely busy. There was a trip to Auckland last week for a meeting of our House of Bishops and tomorrow another trip, this time to visit our students at St John's College. Various meetings. Some leading to more follow up work than others. There has also been a non-visit by me, relating to a significant event in the life of ACANZP ...

On Saturday I took a wedding, long planned in my diary. That meant I couldn't travel to Fiji for the ordination on Saturday of Sione Uluilakepa as bishop and installation as Archbishop of Polynesia. 

I am delighted that our Vicar-General, Mark Barlow was able to travel in my place, and, as well, another two clergy from our Diocese, the Reverends Leni and Kofe Havea were there as well. A pre-event report is in Taonga and I am sure a full report will be posted soon. There have been dozens of photos on Facebook already!

This morning, at church, I was very pleased to meet a regular commenter here, Mark Murphy.

Sadly, late on Friday, I learned that another regular commenter here, Fr Ron Smith died in the early hours of Friday morning.

Ron had been diagnosed with a terminal cancer some months ago. Initially he defied predictions of imminent demise but eventually the cancer won. At a recent service at his regular place of worship, St Michael's and All Angels, it was wonderful to be able to greet Fr Ron, but he clearly looked gravely ill.

Ron was in his 94th year, he was ordained deacon in 1980 and priested in 1981. He served in the Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch Dioceses, being a valued priest in the Parish of Christchurch St Michael's and All Angels since 1999. He was a regular commenter on a number of blogs, aside from ADU, and he wrote his own blog, Kiwianglo, which now has a final comment written by a family member.

Although Ron's comments here could be quite argumentative, and, in times past, prone to ad hominems which kept me on my toes as moderator, he consistently pointed all readers to the wide mercy and generous grace of God.

I will miss him. Please pray for Diana, his wife and their family as they prepare, along with his parish family, for his Requiem Mass at 11 am Saturday 18 March 2023 at St Michael's and All Angels, Oxford Tce, Christchurch.

UPDATE: Lovely tribute here from Bosco Peters.


Mark Murphy said...

Lovely to have you with us, Peter.

...I forgot the gluten free bread for my kids and me so had to ask Peter for a blessing rather than the visible host.

Dear Ron, I think you would have enjoyed this moment.

John Sandeman said...

It's at times like this I wish I was Anglo-Catholic like Father Ron so I could pray for his soul. I will miss him.

Tim Chesterton said...

Thanks for letting us know about Father Ron, Peter.

Mark Murphy said...

Thank you for this lovely tribute Bosco, and especially for the photo.

I only....only?.....knew Ron through his online words. I most appreciated his unstinting take down of homophobia and sola scriptura wherever he saw these in the chirch, his tender vulnerability (well into his 90s), and his devotion to the simple, sufficient, earthy Gospel of love. A favourite verse he often quoted:

"At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants...".

Edward Prebble said...

So sorry to hear about Ron's passing. I certainly pray for him and his family.
I have the privilege of having known him longer than anyone else likely to comment, as I was his boatboy when he was a thurifer at St Paul's Symonds St in the 1950s.
He was a great example of a dymamic my father descrbed in later life. When you have a city parish occupying a "niche" as he did at St Paul's, first an AngloCatholic, and then a Charismatic one, you will inevitably attract people who are more extreme in that emphasis than the Vicar. Ron was rather like that, with a lovely friendliness and charm to go with it.
He was an exuberant thurifer, which gave Dad some difficulties, as he did not approve of swinging the thurible higher than the shoulder, and certainly not in circles. As the person standing closest to Ron, I know he was willing to have a go if he thought the Vicar was looking elsewhere.
As a powerful tenor, Rod was a feature at several parish dinners - always a feature at St Paul's in those days. One year he lead "the Boar's Head" celebration, composing some verses of topical interest. Over 60 years later, I can't remember all the verse, but one, about the St Pau's ritual, finished with
"...some will say
'tis Monkish - that's what we prefer."
Another year he played the tenor lead in a production of HMS Pinnafore, with Dad playing the comic extra.
Some years later I was part of a Christian Community in Walsgrave, the suburb of Coventry where Ron had grown up.

I have (usually) enjoyed, and (usually) agreed with Ron's contributions here and at Thinking Anglicans. Once I suggested some possible peace moves in one of the North American dioceses where they were arguing about who owned various churches.
Ron disagreed - again I can't remember all he said, but the word Munich did feature.

REst in Peace, Ron, and may light perpetual shine upon you.

Anonymous said...

"The heart has its reasons which the mind knows not." -- Blaise Pascal.

In the New Jerusalem, dear Reader, Father Ron's best friends may well think of him as a high church Evangelical.

You may reasonably ask: how can someone who thundered at every opportunity against the 39A and *sola scriptura* and Moore College be regarded as even a Protestant nevermind an Evangelical one? The thought could seem like Tract 90 read backward.

If he was a Protestant at all, one might think, then he was a Liberal one, not an Evangelical. He had a confidence or even faith in Progress that seemed never to have heard of the Great War. And alas, he had the old Liberal habit of denigrating Israel's Pharisees as stupidly legalistic so that Jesus could seem less benighted and illiberal by comparison.

Finally, he claimed to be, to use the phrase he coined, intrinsically gay. Bryden grumbled over and again that the whole idea was a "bastard stepchild of the Enlightenment."

Where in the scriptures could Father Ron have found the thought that anyone with such an identity exists? And if he didn't but still based his life on that identity, then how was he an Evangelical?

In fairness, I have to admit to some prejudice. On one hand, I liked Father Ron and his Eucharistic piety.. On the other hand, he seemed to disagree with me whenever he could find a way to do it.

Now Evangelicalism is a flower of many petals, and a bee could circumnavigate the whole no matter which he first landed on. But I will argue here that, in European history, Evangelicals are Protestants reacting against the rationalism of state church traditions toward a more personal apprehension of the Truth.

They believe in Conversion, says the famous Bebbington Quadrilateral. Yes, of course they do, but only for the sake of what postmoderns would later call Authenticity.

Father Ron was Evangelical in his impatience with arguments that seemed to him to run (as most of mine seemed to him to do) past the reason of embodied persons to the merely rationalistic *view from nowhere*. Kindly note, dear Reader, that historical Anglo-Catholicism, for all its undoubted passion for spirituality, made too much a fetish of Objective Authority to ask the kierkegaardian question whether it was plausible as a personal holding.

Father Ron asked little else. He was constantly questioning the value of my bookish joys.

If you would rather call Father Ron a Radical Pietist than an Evangelical, I will not object. Neither I suspect would he.

When Wesley was moved by the serenity of Moravians during a terrifying storm at sea, their Pietism entered the main stream of his Evangelicalism. Notoriously, the first and greatest Anglo-Catholics (eg John Henry Newman) began their spiritual journeys as Evangelicals. A rose is a rose is a rose.