Bishop John Taylor RIP 1929-2016
Bishop John Taylor was Bishop of St Albans from 1980 to 1995, preceding Bishop Christopher Herbert.
His appointment was a return to the county of his childhood, having attended Watford Boys Grammar School and having found faith at the youth group in St Luke’s Church, Watford.
Ordained in 1956, his early parish experienced was followed by a long and distinguished teaching career at Oak Hill. Following that he had 8 very happy years in Chelmsford Diocese as DDO, some of that time being combined with parish ministry in Woodford Wells. There followed by 5 years as Archdeacon of West Ham before his consecration.
He was troubled at the thought of leaving parish life for Archdiaconal responsibilities, but was obedient to the call of God and his Bishop’s wishes. His calling to the episcopate, in a similar vein, echoed the traditional response ‘nolo episcopari,’ ~ I do not wish to be a bishop. Archdeacon Jonathan Smith remembers Bishop John for many qualities: “The word that keeps coming to mind when I remember him is ‘grace’. He was a man of extraordinary grace.” His pastoral skills also made a deep impression: “He had a genuine interest in the welfare of people, especially his ministers.”
Bishop John was universally recognised as a great teacher, having gained a double first at Cambridge, including in Hebrew, which led to his love of the Holy land and Presidency of CMJ, the Church’s Ministry among the Jews.
“For Bishop John the two great roles of epsicopacy, pastoring and teaching were indissolubly linked. He was a great Old Testament scholar. And he was a natural communicator,” Jonathan recalls.
That sentiment is echoed by the Revd Peter Crumpler, who lived and worshipped in the diocese before becoming Diocesan Communications Officer under Bishop John: “He was a gifted communicator and encouraged the Church to raise its game in the way it ‘spread the word.’
In 1993 I wrote a guide to Church communications and Bishop John contributed the foreword.” It said: “The Church’s communication should be accessible, not obscure, and human, not lost in technicality. In these media-minded days, the Church needs to follow the example of its Lord in taking infinite pains to get the message heard.”
Peter reflects: “Bishop John’s advice is as relevant today as it was more than 20 years ago.”
Bishop Alan took Bishop John’s funeral service in a packed cathedral. The notes to the service say: “In spite of his apprehensions, John was Bishop of St Albans for 15 deeply happy years, and loved ministering to the clergy and people of the St Albans diocese, with Linda always by his side. He was especially proud to be (nearly) the first diocesan bishop to ordain women priests in 1992. As a member of the House of Lords and as Chair of the Communications Committee he spoke up for the church and Christian values on a number of key issues. In 1988 he was appointed Lord High Almoner, which involved attending the Queen each year on her cathedral visits for Maundy Thursday. The lovely anthem ‘Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness’, included in today’s service, was one of John’s favourite Maundy anthems. In 1998 he was appointed KCVO.”
Tributes to Bishop John given by Bishop Robin Smith, retired Bishop of Hertford and the Revd Canon Tom Parker, Bishop John’s son-in-law, whose words included these: “John was wise, kind, accepting, joyous and his very presence brought a sense of security and welcome.
… John epitomised to me the character of the Lord Jesus he served so faithfully his whole adult life.” The sermon, preached by the Revd Canon Rupert Charkham QHC, spoke about the foundation of Bishop John’s life on prayer. The tributes also spoke at length of Bishop John’s love of family life and his family’s love for him and his infectious joy and laughter. It was hard not to feel a great sense of loss at the end of the service, but also deep thanks to God.