WHETHER it was serving people in his congregation or caring for the sick, Canon Richard Eckersley treated everyone like family.
Canon Bruce Carpenter, former Canon at Portsmouth Cathedral, talks about his life in the church.
‘Brought up in Edinburgh, and sent to boarding school at the age of eight, Richard Eckersley served as a Lieutenant in the Navy for the last few years of the Second World War.
‘When peace was declared he studied in Cambridge for his degree.
‘He then trained for the priesthood at Chichester Theological College.
‘He was ordained in 1951, and for the next 22 years worked in the Portsmouth diocese, as Curate of St John’s, Rudmore, then as Priest-in-Charge of St Nicholas, Copnor, and finally as Vicar of Paulsgrove.
‘In 1973 he moved to the Chichester diocese to be Vicar of St Nicholas.
‘He then went to Brighton for 11 years, but returned to Portsmouth as Canon Pastor of the Cathedral.
‘He retired in 1992, but continued to live in Portsmouth carrying out a wide and memorable ministry for a further 21 years, first helping at St Margaret’s, Eastney, and later at All Saints’ Portsea.
‘Richard was a compelling and charismatic figure, totally dedicated to his vocation as a celibate priest, a valued spiritual adviser and a wise and compassionate friend to all.
‘He chose a spartan personal life, particularly in his later years, living mainly in his little kitchen, with none of the “essentials” of modern living.
‘Yet he was marvellous company, endlessly hospitable and entertaining, with a fund of stories, and a warm welcome for all who visited his home.
‘Most of the time he was out endlessly visiting the sick, the poor, the lonely and the troubled – scores of people both in the Portsmouth area and far beyond.
‘The power of his pastoral ministry was due to something very simple – his profound love of God.
‘He once told me that he felt called to be a priest at the age of four.
‘For over 60 years he lived out Jesus’ picture of the righteous in the Parable of the Last Judgement, Matthew 25.31: “I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me...”
‘Richard’s generous kindness was the kindness of Jesus; for him, as for his Lord, everyone, without exception, was a sister or a brother to be respected, valued and loved.
‘May he rest in peace and rise in glory.’
Richard Eckersley, born November 24 , 1925, died, July 11, 2013.