Donald Barnes - a tribute

by Sally Barnes

from Signs of the Times, No. 43 - Oct 2011

Donald was an amazing, much loved and loving man who lived a life of deep faith. For us his family, our children, their partners and our grandchildren he will be unforgettable and quite irreplaceable. But we do rejoice in his life and what he gave to us. He died in the fullness of years at home; we were with him; and for that we give thanks. His was a life well lived.

He was a man of formidable intellect with a deep biblical and theological knowledge, a voracious reader and, as many of you know, with a faultless memory for historical events/dates/cricket scores from the beginning of time, general election results and analysis. It was like living in a university with his great knowledge and love of discussion and challenge. One of our children once said about him "Dad has three main interests in life, cricket, politics and religion, and I am not sure in which order to put them".

He was a sweet man of warmth, wit and humour, with a strong sense of the ridiculous which prevented him and us from ever taking ourselves too seriously. He did have a tendency to be vague when he would get taken up with a thought or issue, to the extent we thought he was not listening, so we would say something quite outrageous, only to find a few minutes later he would make an acerbic comment which indicated he had heard - so you never knew.

But above all Donald had a deep and unshakeable faith that he lived throughout his life in word and action. He believed totally that the Good News of the Gospel and the significance of Jesus' life and teaching was for everyone. As a consequence he was a passionate advocate for the causes he believed in - which sometimes could make life challenging for him (and us).

From the earliest times I knew him he spoke out against discrimination, unfairness and injustice, often at times when it was uncomfortable to do so and to those who were not used to hearing those kinds of thoughts expressed out loud. Many times some of his friends would say to him, "Donald, if you keep saying that you will never be made a bishop". You can imagine his reply.

But he did love being a Prebendary of St Paul's because on his pastoral days there he met and talked with people from all over the world.

He believed deeply that we, being made in the likeness of God, have a responsibility to recognise and cherish the gifts and abilities we and others have, and nourish them without discrimination. He saw the damage discrimination did to individuals and groups and felt this had no part in Christian life.

He especially loved the times in his role as Warden of Readers in the discussions he had with >them. He enjoyed teaching at theological college, engaging in discussions with members of different faiths, denominations, cultures and viewpoints, that made our lives richer too because of the friendships we have made. When he was an industrial chaplain at MacVities in the 70's he loved discussing issues with the shop floor workers (and we liked the cut price biscuits he brought home).

Donald had the gifts of friendship and warmth that so many of you mentioned in letters, cards and emails we have received. These were common threads that ran through them (thank you so much for them). Many of you will know how he loved to invite people in for coffee/meals and a discussion, especially at Christmas, when we never how many would be eating with us as he had a habit of going into the highways and byways of Belsize Park and inviting people in who looked lonely. One of our friends wrote, "My funny memory of Donald is of meeting him in Bejam, just before one Christmas. He was wearing sandals and carrying the most enormous turkey you ever saw. I knew it was to feed all St Peter's church members who would otherwise spend Christmas alone"! I don't remember the sandals but I do remember the turkey because when it came home it was bigger than the oven!

As we say goodbye to Donald, a much loved husband/father/grandfather/brother/uncle and friend, we will each have our own memories of him & of the life he lived. I don't want to run the risk of sounding like the actress who used to come on at the end of the Morecambe & Wise show blowing kisses to the audience saying "I love you all", but Donald did have a great love/friendship for you all and us his family and that is something we will carry with us as we remember him.