In Memoriam: S.E.C. Bishop Michael Hare-Duke,

Generous Episcopacy: The Rt Rev Michael Hare-Duke RIP

by Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow

I gather from a twitter correspondent that the Rt Rev Michael Hare-Duke has died. Bishop Michael was the bishop with whom I first tested my vocation. Having been a bishop since 1969, he saw and influenced the entire modern story of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Where to begin with memories?

The time I sat in his study as he asked me about my vocation whilst his beloved dog, Tobermory pushed twelve full bottles of whisky from one side of the room to the other and back again. And again. And again.

The time he was in hospital and Ba, to whom he was married, turned up on my doorstep late at night announcing a full scale emergency. It turned out that the emergency was not his health but that he was dictating faxes from his hospital bed and Ba was struggling to send a message to the Crown Prince of Jordan.

The time and time again when he penned articles for newspapers in absolute certainty that mission in his diocese depended on people like him offering leadership, inspiration and puckish humour to the whole of society not just the people of the pews.

The time and time again his words have brought people to God and God to the people, as he was one of the triumvirate of poet-priests who wrote the bulk of the modern Scottish Eucharistic rite.

The extraordinary influence in the world of mental health that Michael had.

The gay couples he was blessing 40 years ago.

The unpredictable, chaotic, sometimes infuriating but human and humane episcopacy that he inhabited and made his own, which must today remind so many in the Scottish Episcopal Church of more generous times.

I’ve no idea how they are going to celebrate Bishop Michael at his funeral next Tuesday 23 December 2014, which will be in St Ninian’s Cathedral at 10 am. At one point the then cathedral organist kept the Fauré requiem in the repertoire specifically so it would be ready for Bishop Michael’s funeral. (A fact that led one of my predecessors as Precentor there to remark that a few choruses of Hooray and Up She Rises might well be just as appropriate).

I have a particularly strong memory of him over-consecrating vastly one Maundy Thursday. Whole chalices of consecrated wine were left over.

Not a bad way to remember him.

The world was richer for him and poorer at his passing.

Heaven seems a deliciously more giddy prospect


I was interested in this piece by Fr.Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, on the recent death of Bishop Michael Hare-Duke (a distant relative of my wife), who was once a Bishop of the Scottish Episcopal Church and a well-known Anglo-Catholic and Liberal influence during the time of his episcopate.

His death will be mourned by many an Episcopalian – both clerical and lay – who benefitted greatly from his eirenic, if at some times erratic. ministry as their bishop. The Scottish Episcopal Church may never have produced a more insightful and generous-hearted prelate. Family stories about him have long been cherished – especially of his ‘upper-class English – or should one say pure-Scottish – accent. He was known to have addressed one of his younger relatives in this way: “Oh Peter, do be a lamb, and do this for me!”.

A Blessed Soul, now in Paradise. May he rest in peace and rise one day in glory. Amen

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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2 Responses to In Memoriam: S.E.C. Bishop Michael Hare-Duke,

  1. murraysmallbone says:

    Dear Fr. Ron.
    Thank you for this posting;
    From what I read therein, one has a vision of a what I call “A Truly Delicious Soul;”;many of such ilk have inhabited the Anglo-Catholic galaxy.
    Other tighter Traditions seem not populated with such people.
    Perhaps fitting that he left us near Gaudete Sunday.

    Jesu mercy ! Mary pray.!

  2. Dave Walsh says:

    I was a small boy in school at St Marks Church in Cannon Street Bury Gtr Manchester [not the one at Limefield] when Michael Hare-duke was the incumbent. We lived directly across the road from the school and the Church itself. Looking back, we were taught by a group of fairly eccentric but caring teachers with a somewhat more middle class background than ourselves and Michael arrived as a very modernistic figure in those grey times. I suppose he was what the press defined as a “rocking Vicar” although I don’t recall seeing him with a guitar or a motorbike. He was welcomed, respected and seen as someone always trying to help and inject enthusiasm into the community, despite some of his more outlandish ideas. It seems to me now that these people were social Missionaries in a way. We didn’t mind this and appreciated the attention

    I decided to resign from Sunday School when I was about 7? Michael came to see me and I said that I’d read quite a bit of the Bible and that the storys were good but I didn’t really believe it and found SS a bit boring.. This didn’t phase him at all and I think my parents got the message not be overly concerned or reactive . Non-the-less he came into school recruiting for his “Modern ” Nativity in which I played a “crippled boy”. We also did one later in which Herod’s men were from another SS altogether ie I was a Nazi Officer [in Wellington Boots]. This was a brave thing to do in conservative Britain not so long after WW2. Although I seem to recall spending time at Church with this admirable man, I never did go back to. Sunday School or develop a strong faith.

    On the other hand I have remained interested in Christianity [and other religions] taking the Philip Larkin view that Church buildings often have a compressed and intense atmosphere regardless of individual belief. [Ironically St Marks was demolished in the seventies]. .Anyone who arrives on my doorstep with a strong conversion script, is usually disconcerted to hear that I do know about Jesus and would also like to ask them about the Old Testament in relation to the work of Bob Dylan [a genuine study subject for me] sadly they don’t usually stay long! Strangely, I somehow feel I owe some of this attitude to such a respected and revered man of the cloth.

    Fifteen years ago I heard the BIshop, from Scotland, on Radio 4 and got in touch by e-mail. I had thought it must be the same Michael Hareduke and he was delighted to confirm this. It turned out that he had visited a factory in Stubbins [near my Ramsbottom home] to buy curtains and other fabrics for Church use on a regular basis when I was a young adult. Although the Cornerhouse Cinema in Manchester doesn’t seem to have much of a recorded history I told him that I recalled that the first director [female] was a Hare-duke. I never did find out whether or not this might have been a relative however?. Clearly, this was a man who led a very full and community orientated life in service to his God. The only immediate comparator I can think of would be Bob Holman who left formal social work to be an active Christian on the Glasgow Estates. Rest in peace Michael. .

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