Revd John Arthur Silk (OK 1970) died February 21, 2020

At King’s John was a Surrey Scholar and was awarded both the Twentyman Classics prize and the Maclear Divinity prize. He was also a member of the Cross-country VIII team. He went on to become Rector of Ring­would with Kings­down (1984-95); Vicar of Thames Ditton (1995-2014).

KCS Tartuffe 1970
KCS Tartuffe 1970

John Silk (kneeling) in the 1970 King’s College School production of Tartuffe

John Silk grew up in Hinchley Wood in Surrey. He showed early academic promise, winning a Surrey Scholarship to KCS. His family would joke that his education was entirely free save for the annual charge of ten shillings (50 p) for the school list. He was awarded both the Twentyman Classics prize and the Maclear Divinity prize, and he gained his school colours as a member of the Cross-country VIII team.

On leaving KCS he studied Theology at Selwyn College Cambridge. After a brief interlude teaching he returned to Cambridge to train for the ordained ministry at Westcott House.

In 1977 John was ordained Deacon at Guildford Cathedral and served his title at All Saints Banstead. It was here that he met and married Clare. Here also his vicar instilled in John the importance of observing his weekly day off – a habit which ensured lifesaving oases of rest and recreation throughout his subsequent ministry.

Moving to a second curacy at St Martin’s Dorking John stayed an extra year to cover the interregnum when his vicar retired. Both Banstead and Dorking had a strong ecumenical tradition, always important to him. In Dorking the church was shared between Anglicans and Methodists; John was a strong advocate of the strength to be gained in diversity when different traditions worked together.

After the interregnum John longed for his own parish. There followed eleven happy years on the Kent coast as Rector of Ringwould with Kingsdown. John was ex officio chair of governors at the local village primary school – a role he fulfilled with typical commitment, supporting the school through many changes including the tortuous process of introducing the new National Curriculum. By now he and Clare had two children of their own, giving him an immediate rapport with other young families. In 1995 he was appointed Vicar of St Nicholas Thames Ditton, only two miles from Hinchley Wood where he grew up, and where he was to serve for 19 years.

John had a profound Christian faith and a calling to serve God to the very best of his ability. He was incisively intelligent and genuinely humble: qualities seldom found together. He led a life of true discipleship: integrity, dedication, prayer and hard work. Nevertheless he often felt inadequate and doubted his abilities. Naturally shy, his compassion was clear. Those who experienced his individual pastoral care, especially at times of deep need, never forgot it.

He was at his most comfortable teaching and encouraging, and was known for his gift of preaching. His sermons were concise, reasoned, challenging, informative and interesting. A depth of scholarship went into their preparation, yet they were accessible to everyone who heard them.

He became a tutor for STETS theological training scheme. This proved to be a fruitful collaboration. His students greatly valued his academic soundness, his wisdom, his quiet wit, and his willingness to hear their concerns without intruding his own. For John it provided an intellectual stimulus and a counterbalance to parish work. He also undertook courses in counselling skills and in spiritual direction, eventually completing the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.

Fortunately John took early retirement, and he and Clare moved to Somerset. At last he had time to relax, to read more widely and to follow his lifelong love of cricket. He joined the U3A, taking part in classes in art appreciation and Anglo Saxon history, and resuming his interest in chess. Walking had always been a passion, and to his great enjoyment he walked weekly with the local Ramblers group.

John developed ulcerative colitis which severely curtailed his activities in the last year of his life. He died on 21 February 2020, aged 67, following complications after surgery.
He is survived by Clare and their children Richard and Catherine.

Clare Silk
November 2020