Jeremy Winston was a student at St Stephen’s House while I was on the staff. Since he occupied a room directly above Rosemary’s and my bedroom, I couldn’t help knowing that, although alcohol was strictly forbidden in student rooms, Jeremy often had some of his pals in for a night-cap at weekends! I decided it might be wise to take no notice – but there came a night when the party was still in full swing at 2 a.m. and the noise unbelievable. I put on my dressing gown, climbed the back stairs, stormed into Jeremy’s room and read the riot act to the youthful revellers within. Jeremy took his revenge by planting a rumour that, when he broke up Jeremy Winston’s birthday party, the Vice-Principal had been wearing matching Rupert Bear slippers and pyjamas!
Jeremy left Oxford for a title at Bassaleg in 1979, and I finally returned to Wales eight years later. By then, Jeremy was Vicar of St Arvans where he had beautified the church almost beyond recognition. I wasn’t surprised in view of his musical and aesthetic gifts and his skill with words that he had been appointed to membership of the Church in Wales Liturgical Commission. As things turned out, we were to work together on that Commission for more than twenty years and shortly before he died Jeremy became its chairman. His chief contribution to liturgical revision was his work on the baptism and confirmation services in the late 1980s. THhe experimental forms for which Jeremy was largely responsible were models of pastoral sensitivity and structural tidiness; they commended themselves quickly throughout Wales and paved the way very effectively for the definitive forms of 2006.
Rosemary and I moved to Abergavenny in May 1997, a few months after my ordination as bishop. Our decision to come here was dictated by the need to live somewhere with reasonable access to every corner of Wales. The fact that the vicar was a friend of more than twenty years’ standing was certainly a bonus but not a deciding factor, while the fact that Jeremy and I thought similarly about controversial questions had absolutely no bearing on the matter. It would have made no difference, after all, if our views had differed radically, for Jeremy never allowed such things to get in the way of his human relationships. He always recognized that, while we must never abandon our quest for the truth, a fundamental question for us Christians concerns the way we handle our disputes and disagreements. He set us a fine example in this as in other ways as well: I for one shall never forget his courage in proposing and championing the so-called ‘Kirk-Winston amendment’ to the draft legislation on women in the episcopate in 2008 and the way he travelled all over Wales during the following winter promoting an important series of booklets in whose production and publication he had been instrumental.
As I remember Jeremy today in this great church where his name and memory will always be honoured, I think of the ordinations and other special services we held here. He had the rare gift (essential on such occasions) of being able to keep both the broad sweep and the tiny details in view. He understood how to handle huge congregations (1200 at one ordination); he understood that liturgical dignity requires careful attention to ceremonial detail; he understood the special place that good music occupies in Anglican worship. Had he lived, Dean Jeremy’s contribution to the worshipping life of St Woolos’ Cathedral would have been enormous.
But let’s not end up dreaming about what might have been. That would be futile. Instead, let us rejoice that the song our priest and friend sang in this life is now the music of his very being; it is the new song of the redeemed, that Spirit-filled psalmody that St Augustine said delights the ear of God because it is ‘not sound but love, non clamor sed amor…’ May Father Jeremy rest in the peace of God’s love and may Christ the conqueror of death raise him up in glory. Amen.