Letter from the Vicar (October 2009)
FREDERIC JACK MILVERTON, 1915-2009 Jack Milverton during his long and interesting life made notable contributions to human society in a variety of different fields.
He was a talented professional teacher, in schools, but above all in teacher training colleges.
He was a gifted priest who made significant contributions to the life of a variety of parishes. He was a powerful thinker whose knowledge and understanding spanned a wide variety of disciplines, from chemistry, though psychology to philosophy and theology. He was a loving and gentle man of whom many can say that they benefited greatly from knowing him.
Jack was born in Tuckton, near Christchurch. He attended Bournemouth Grammar School and was awarded a Kitchener Scholarship when he entered higher education at King’s College, London in 1934. He graduated with a BSc in 1937 after which he trained to be a teacher at Westminster Training College. His first teaching job was in Yorkshire, and he combined his duties as a science master with study for a Master of Education degree at Leeds University, which he obtained in 1940. His thesis was entitled, ‘An Experimental Investigation into the effects of Physical Training on Personality’. In reduced form it was published in the British Journal of Educational Psychology in 1943. During the war Jack became an RAF officer serving in the Meteorological Office MO2 Air Ministry. This included a posting to Norway which he received on VE Day. He was based at Trondheim, but had to spend some time in Hell. He was proud to show us his ticket there (a return!).
He returned to teaching after the war and in 1946 married his first wife Cora. In the following year he became a lecturer in education at Sheffield College of Education. In 1954 he received a summons to visit the Bishop of Sheffield, Leslie Hunter, who urged Jack to realise a vocation to the ordained ministry. He trained for the ministry at Ripon Hall, Oxford and was ordained deacon in 1957, priest in 1958. He served as a curate in Ecclesall, a district of Sheffield. In 1960 he became Vicar of Thurcroft, a mining village near Rotherham. He was probably not well suited to this parish and soon returned to lecturing at the new Nottingham College of Education. In 1967 he returned to Dorset, becoming Principal Lecturer in Philosophy at Weymouth College of Education.
When he came to Weymouth he continued his Christian ministry at Osmington as part of the Preston team. In 1970 he became Head of Education at the College and on the amalgamation of the Weymouth and Bournemouth Colleges to form the Dorset Institute of Higher Education (the forerunner of Bournemouth University) in 1976, Dean of Education.
Jack’s wife Cora died in 1977, but he was very fortunate indeed to find a new partner in Ruth and they married in 1978. Ruth had been a colleague at the college – indeed Jack was her boss. He retired from education the following year but immediately resumed his active ministry in the church, being appointed Team Vicar of Oakdale. Jack and Ruth were among the first residents in the burgeoning new estates on Canford Heath and they worked to establish a Christian community in an area where there was no church building and precious few other facilities. They started a Sunday School and the adult Christians met in their vicarage for communion. Ruth writes, “This was an interesting experience with the draped television set forming the altar … and interruptions by the milkman …”! Eventually a new church was built. It was dedicated in 1981 and thrived. Jack retired (again!) in 1982 feeling that the task he had set himself had been achieved.
Many people who had done as much as Jack would have taken it easy in retirement. Jack was not that kind of a man. He became a very active member of the staff team at Holy Trinity with St Nicholas, Weymouth and made an enormous contribution to its life and that of the wider Christian community. Jack brought his educational talents into his work as a priest. He was an accomplished preacher and teacher who made the complexities of theology accessible to a great many people. He was never content with simplistic ideas and always challenged narrow approaches to religion. He did all this in a gracious and gentlemanly fashion which disarmed even those who disagreed with him. Many people have debts of gratitude to Jack. Vicars who worked with him and whom he supported, curates who learned from his wisdom and experience, ministers in training whom he helped to think about their future ministry and, of course, many, many laity. He ran four Bishop’s Certificate in Theology courses in his ‘retirement’ and was personal tutor to several candidates for the ordained ministry.
In his professional life Jack was excellent at organising and guiding his colleagues. He was a very precise and orderly man in all that he did. This stemmed from his mind which was clear and ordered until the very end. He was deeply knowledgeable across a range of fields. The words polymath and even Renaissance man have been used to describe him. In an age when science and religion are sometimes ill-fitting bedfellows he was a scientist and a theologian.
But Jack was not all mind. He had a big heart and a big soul. Reserved in some ways, he had a great sense of humour and enjoyed the good things of life. He was a loving and caring man. He was also a courageous man. In the last few years of his life he had to cope with a considerable measure of disability. He did not let this get him down but dealt with it with fortitude and good humour. Ruth supported him, but he also supported her and together they made a great team.
He will be sorely missed, but he was a man of deep faith in a reality of life greater than this one and we can surely believe that he is now experiencing and exploring the wonders of being in the presence of the almighty.