A wonderful friend of mine and a great priest died on New Year’s Day. He was called Canon David Tann and we had his funeral yesterday at All Saints Fulham. He was 84 and had lived a good and a full life. I last saw him on Putney High Street about two weeks before Christmas and we had a good chat. We talked about meeting up in the New Year. We shall now have to postpone this and wait until we meet in higher planes. He had been in relatively poor health for a while but his death, when it came, was unexpected. But fortunately it was mercifully quick. He had been part of the ministry team at All Saints Fulham (my old parish) for decades and he was a great supporter and encourager of mine when I started exploring ordination a number of years ago. He was deeply spiritual, a great thinker and ponderer, a man of few words; but goodness me how they all counted, humble and modest but above all he was a man of Christ. He had said Mass at St Mary’s Convent next door to us for goodness knows how long and his ministry there was deeply valued. It was great to see Mother Jennifer, Liz and Fr Graham Morgan at his funeral representing the convent
If there was such a thing as a perfect funeral, this was very close to it. It was a Requiem Mass -David had left very clear instructions as to what he wanted – and so we had Faure’s wonderful Requiem setting, and David had asked for all the readings from Easter Sunday to be part of his funeral mass……”We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song!” So all of us clergy were in white and gold rather than purple. There were bishops and clergy aplenty and smoke and bells and finery and music and organs and the great and the good on parade but what stood out for me was the wonderful confidence and poise that David’s young grand-daughter had as she read Jeremiah’s marvellous words for us for the first reading. She had memorised the text and looked at the congregation as she spoke with confidence and love. David would have been so proud of her.
The All Saints clergy delivered a powerful and moving funeral. Our dear friend Archbishop Walter was majestic is his commendation as was Bishop Peter Wheatley in his blessing. I was moved to see how things happen at a priest’s funeral; and David’s coffin was facing the congregation with a bible and his ordination stole draped on top of it – a reminder of his long and faithful ministry. David’s spiritual director of many many years, a wise old – slightly frail – nun, Sister Christine Head RSCJ delivered a powerful and moving homily. “David” she declared “ Is now in a bigger and better place and is now next to his Lord who is whispering in his ear “Well done thou good and faithful servant. With you I am well pleased”.
And so another soul departs this world for the next. But what a great man David was. I loved him deeply. How all of us – especially this priest – can learn from him. To be gentle, to be humble, to be non-judgemental, to smile, to laugh, to think, to pause, to ponder, to pray, to think of others, to try to show something of Christ to those whose paths cross ours. And if we come close to some of this, maybe, just like David, we might one day hear a whisper in our ear saying to us “Well done thou good and faithful servant. With you I am well pleased”.
With every blessing,