Christopher Paul Gane
In his latter years Chris’ short term memory often failed him, but his ability to recall stories from his childhood never left him – often testing the patience of his family and friends who heard them rather too many times! The stories he told recalled an idyllic and happy early childhood, from his birth in 1933 in Bristol, the move to Scotland with his father’s work, and his mother’s dancing classes.
Then came the sudden and profound disruption of WWII during which he was separated from both his father, who fought in North Africa and was seriously injured in the battle for Italy, and his mother, who worked with the Wrens in Yeovilton. At the age of 10 he found himself boarding at Wells Cathedral School with holidays spent with grandparents in Bristol.
After the war, the family moved to Cambridge and it was there that Chris finished his secondary schooling at The Leys, studied History and Theology at Queens’ College, trained for the ministry at Ridley Hall and met his future wife, Maureen. It was a relationship that gave him strength to do the job that they both felt was their calling and one that sustained him through the challenges and successes of a fruitful, lifelong ministry.
After ordination in 1959, Chris worked as an Assistant Curate in Rainham, Essex and then Farnborough in Hampshire where he was also Officiating Chaplain for the RAF. In 1964, he became Vicar of St Paul’s, Erith in the London Borough of Bexley, a large and lively parish where he was instrumental in developing the concept of the ‘family service’. By 1971, Chris and Maureen, with their three young children Clare, Alison and Andrew, moved to St Margaret’s in Ipswich, a large, socially diverse town centre parish. Ipswich became their home for 17 years. His final move before retirement took him to the parishes of Hopton, Barningham, Market Weston and Coney Weston in rural north Suffolk.
As a priest he was kind, compassionate, accepting and inclusive. He had an innovative and at times maverick streak and was prepared to take risks and speak up in the interests of fairness and justice. He was a pioneer and advocate of divorcees marrying in church, and in the early 80s conducted his first ceremony much to the immense disdain of his bishop. As a highly regarded trainer and mentor, Chris nurtured a succession of curates in the 1970s and 80s. A curacy within one of Chris’s parishes was much sought after.
The death of Maureen in June 2016 was devastating for Chris. He missed her both physically and spiritually. Life since then became much harder for him and he has talked to many people about his longing to be reunited with her. In 2017 he coped remarkably well with the move to Stradbroke in Suffolk – to be close to his daughter, Clare – the refurbishment of his bungalow and the transformation of his garden which he absolutely loved and which brought him so much joy every day. He spent many hours listening to music, often being moved to tears. Chris loved family get-togethers and he was absolutely delighted to meet his first great grandchild just a couple of weeks before he died. He leaves a huge gap in the lives of his family and friends, but there is a comfort in knowing that he is now where he wanted to be – reunited with his beloved Maureen and at peace.
Words by Clare Flintoff, Chris’ daughter