Memories of Bishop Pat Harris

Rev Nick Davies is the Team Rector with pastoral responsibility for St Philip and St James church where Patrick and Val have worshipped how many years.

He writes:

I was able to visit Patrick on a number of occasions during his last weeks in hospital and I will be conducting his funeral in a couple of weeks’ time.

When I first arrived at Pip and Jim’s eight years ago, fresh from my curacy, I was rather overwhelmed at the prospect of having a Bishop listening to my preaching every week. I found, however, that I had nothing to fear; for in Patrick I had a deeply supportive and prayerful parishioner.

On first meeting Patrick, I remember looking up at him and thinking, here was a man born to be a Bishop, however over time I came to realise that Patrick was a man of deep humility and utterly reliant on God’s grace. Patrick was diligent in his prayer for myself and my family every day, he was generous and joyful in his willingness to baptise our adopted son allowing me to be a dad for the day, rather than a vicar. He was also wise and discrete in his occasional counsel.

I have particularly fond memories of his intercessions which were profound, moving and often displayed a depth of wrestling with the texts for that week which, at very least, rivalled that of the preacher!

As you may know, Patrick was a Fellow of the University of Gloucester supporting it to remain true to its Anglican foundation in difficult and challenging times for higher education. In this role he was an important and prayerful support to the chaplaincy team. Patrick also led on our own church’s ministry to international students, notably to the Chinese community bringing several of them to confessions of faith, baptism and confirmation.

In his passing, our congregation has lost a towering example of humble ministry, grounded in grace. At the same time, however, we have also witnessed a good death surrounded by prayer as he claimed the promises of Christ and witnessed visions of angels dancing above his hospital bed.

From Rt Rev Ruth Worsley, Bishop of Taunton

Bishop Pat was such a special man and an example for me as to what a good Bishop looks like!

My memories of +Pat are of a warm, insightful and genuinely caring Bishop. He confirmed both Howard and I when we were students at St John’s theological college. I was somewhat resistant as I’d been baptised by immersion as a teenager and felt this seemed an unnecessary hurdle to jump to ‘become Anglican’ as Howard had been accepted as an ordinand. His sermon unbeknownst to him was a word from God to me of a vocation I had yet to discover.

His and Valeries’ welcome to us and our 3 small boys into their home for a pre-ordination lunch was remarkable. Val was on her knees pulling out cars for them to play with and then they chased Pat round their garden with the hosepipe. He was soaked, laughing and enjoying the company of children who had no idea that this was their dad’s Bishop.

Pat wrote the children a card to thank them for their drawings following the ordination and then told us to make sure we took care of our family first before all else. Ours were challenging inner city parishes and he wanted to make sure we didn’t stay too long at the expense of our children and their care. In the end we were there much longer than anticipated but his support and attention was much appreciated.

I remember one evening when Pat called unannounced at the vicarage as the children were listening to a story Howard was telling, a daily pattern in our house. Pat was invited in but his business was put to one side as he spent some time listening in to the story and joining in the prayer time. He knew the priority of children and family life over and above the pressures of ministerial life.

Pat was present at my consecration as Bishop and I remember him telling me that he had continued to pray for Howard and myself on a daily basis since our ordinations. His continued interest in us told me that was undoubetedly true.

His sincerity, down-to-earthness and humility were a wonderful example to us all. Southwell and Nottingham felt a diocese where the pastoral took precedent which was much needed in the challenging world we faced in our Nottingham parishes. I’m not sure we could have been there so long if we hadn’t been sustained through the prayers and care of Pat.

From Bishop Peter Hill, Bishop of Barking and acting Bishop of Chelmsford

For the Diocese of Southwell (as it was then) Patrick Harris was a terrific teacher and evangelist, with a pastoral touch that was second to none. It is said true Christian gentleness is strength restrained and that is what marked him out. His personal ministry to many clergy was exceptional in its wisdom, care and above in encouragement. Late night phone calls would often come when clergy were discouraged or in need.

Pat Harris never ‘played the bishop’ in any hierarchical sense. He was open and at times vulnerable before us and his personal warm and generosity of spirit made him a disciple amongst disciples. After one parish visit a parishioner said , “he just plonked himself down and talked to us as if he had known us all his life.” And another in the local lingo added, “he ‘as no side to ’im, has he me duck?”. Big compliments indeed in in mining mid Nottinghamshire! He was equally at home in the public square or the public house.

True authority in God’s church is given not taken. Many clergy and laity in Nottinghamshire were glad to give him that authority as their bishop simply because of the way he was. In the words of the ordinal, “ he knew his people and was known (and loved) by them.”