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GFD at his leaving 'do' 1978

There I was, a new curate, new to Manchester, new to the North, wondering what this ministry thing entailed.  GFD, as Gordon was know to his curates, had the answer!  “Spend the morning with your books,” he said, “the afternoon visiting parishioners, and the evening for anything else!”.

GFD spent his mornings principally with St Paul, making neat notes in a series of small, pre-Filofax multi-ring binders. “Focus on one small area of study”, he would say, “stick with it, and you’ll find that will lead you into all sorts of other areas.”  Only lately have I learned of the depth of GFD’s study of St Paul.

As a training incumbent GFD was ordered, rather than strict.  We, two curates and GFD, would meet three times each weekday: mattins [when he could monitor our previous day’s visiting via our intercessions!] , a midday mass followed by lunch [accompanied by Radio 4 – Round Britain Quiz being his favourite], and evensong – with a staff meeting every Sunday evening.

Visiting was at the heart of his pastoral ministry: organised visiting with the parish divided up into distinct areas [different areas, different days – so we didn’t clash!], a simple but effective card index of every home in the parish, and different coloured inks for each of us to record our visits!  Community was the thing, making connections.  This pastoral heart extended beyond the parish to embrace the spiritual direction, counselling, and befriending of many in the diocese.

A truly humble man – I remember when he was offered an honorary canonry; “I’m not sure,” he said, “that taking on a title without any accompanying work is what we’re all about.”  And a poet!  I remember taking a telephone call in the Rectory while GFD was out: a literary agent phoning to tell him that some of his poems had been accepted for publication – under a pseudonym, of course!

GFD was a solid, thoughtful, learned, caring, and deeply spiritual man – a loving heart beating within the concrete jungle of deck-access Hulme – making a great and lasting impression on a whole string of priests trained by him.  Thirty years on, still remembered with affection and gratitude.

Gordon Frederick Dowden: born 7 November 1925 – died  3 November 2008.  Deaconed 1953, priested 1954.  Curacies in Salisbury and Ely.  Rector of St Philip’s, Hulme (1958-67); St Philip with St Michael, St Stephen and St Mark, Hulme (1967-70); St Philip with St Michael, St Stephen, St Mark, and St Gabriel Hulme (1968-70); the Ascension, Hulme (1970-78); Rural Dean of Hulme (1973-78); Priest-in-Charge of Holybourne with Neatham (1978-82); Rural Dean of Alton (1979-82); Assistant Curate of the Good Shep­herd, Manchester (1982-91); Area Dean of Ardwick (1982-90); Chap­lain of Ancoats Hospital, Manchester (1985-90).

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