Extract from Thurifer’s March Diary in New Directions
In Notting Hill, Fr John Brownsell, having reached the mandatory age of 70, retired after 45 years at All Saints from curate to Team Vicar to Vicar. It is certainly rare and may be unique in this more mouvementé age when career development is the norm. His farewell Mass was attended by 250-300 people. Of course, there was a tinge of sadness but the atmosphere was one of completion, of a task done. He preached a moving homily on the Nunc Dimittis, He was departing in peace having seen so many example of Christ’s light and salvation in the lives of so many. The evening before there was a programme of his favourite music and its significance, from classical to pop. To [this] fine priest … ad multos annos.
Extract from the Bishop of Fulham’s Letter of 14 February 2018 to clergy
At the end of January, Fr John Brownsell retired as Vicar of All Saints, Notting Hill, after 45 years in the parish. Fr John’s ministry at All Saints and his wider contribution to the catholic movement, especially through his work in the field of vocations to the sacred ministry and religious life, have been outstanding – ‘legendary’. Please pray for Fr John as he moves into retirement, and for the people of All Saints as the parish enters a period of vacancy for the first time, if not quite in living memory, then for very many years.
Father Darren Smith (General Secretary The Additional Curates Society)
Here is a brief reflection from my prospective on Father Brownsell ministry
There is often the phrase used “Giants of our land” and without any doubt in the Anglo-Catholic world Father John Brownsell will forever remain a true giant. Not only was he large in stature but his influence and reputation was truly enormous. I remember as a curate becoming very familiar with his voice as I played on a weekly basis that famous video he produced on Baptism and it was something of an honour for me to meet the face behind the voice. And what a voice he has! A voice that is authoritative, commanding and yet so always pastorally sensitive. In my time at the Additional Curates Society I feel privileged to have looked upon him as a colleague and a friend. The years of experience both in a parish and as a DDO has given him such amazing gifts that he has readily shared with individuals to the benefit of the Church. I know the Council of the ACS will join me in not only thanking him for his outstanding ministry, but also wishing him every happiness in his retirement.
Father Charles Card-Reynolds wrote:-
I should very much like to come to the Desert Island Discs this evening. What a lovely idea and thank you for extending the invitation. I do associate you with islands!
As I write might I offer you my thanks for the ways in which your ministry has touched mine. Back in 1999 you conducted the priestly ordination retreat for +Michael Houghton. Your words about the priest being the conductor who brings God safely into people’s lives have stayed with me. It has of course been a great joy to me to follow your work as Commissary of the Windward Islands and representation on the SACF (Society for the Advancement of The Christian Faith). Both of which I have found very worthwhile. I do hope our paths will continue to cross. With my prayers, thanks and love
ROSS BUCHANAN (pastoral assistant All saints Notting Hill).
Being pastoral assistant for ten years in Father Brownsell's parish has been an unbelievable privilege. I have learnt so much from his long-standing pastoral concern and identification with the All Saints community.
There are many qualities to pick up on, but to focus on one, his ministry has been truly inclusive. Not once has he even slightly hinted that any individual - or type of individuals - is excluded from the communion of saints. Differences of culture, upbringing and viewpoint are no barrier. This contrasts with the current trend amongst Christians to mix only with other Christians who agree with them. Fr Brownsell accepts and respects the ministry of many who have very different views to him.
This leads us on to another of his qualities. Admission by baptism into the All Saints family, as far as Fr Brownsell is concerned, can never be rescinded. Ever. Whatever happens. It does not matter if you disappear for ten, twenty, thirty years ... or even longer. It does not matter what you do - or don't do. For him, membership is unconditional and eternal.
And finally ... let us remember Fr Brownsell's gift as a pilgrimage leader. This stems from his sense that All Saints is part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church. I personally have been with him to Lourdes, Sweden, Rome, Cologne, Triers, Ars, Malta, Turin, Jerusalem, Galilee.
So thank you, Fr Brownsell, for your many gifts. They will sustain many more years of flourishing ministry in Winchester.
Ena Macdonald (All saints Notting Hill - Tribute at the service 28/01/18).
Today we bid a sad farewell to our dedicated parish priest, Father Brownsell. Our much loved, Father Brownsell is retiring and moving away! - I for one can’t really imagine, All Saints without him.
Father Brownsell has worked hard here for over forty years!
Father, I have known you since I was a little girl. I have grown up with you in my life. You have been present at all my significant events, and that of many others, including my family and many of my closest friends - christenings, funerals, births, deaths and marriages - you have been there!
I and many, many others will always be deeply grateful and humbled by the support you gave us when we needed it most. Just from my family we will always be eternally grateful for the way you were there for us when our mum was sick and died.
Now, as the story which is your life, opens it’s next chapter, May the God-of Grace richly bless and watch over you. May the God of Peace grant you peace, always. May the God of Abundant Joy - shower you daily. Because YOU will always be our priest. We thank God for the deep compassion, dedication and generosity you have shared with us for the last 40 years.
In the words of the bible, I know what I am planning for you,’ Declared the Lord. ‘I have plans to give you hope and a good future.’ Jeremiah 29:11
What I can say on a positive note today - is that we are consoled by the fact that you have laid a very good foundation for All Saints to build upon. You leave behind a legacy of spiritual thoughtfulness, rooted in deep faith and commitment. Your leadership stems from your love for God. We thank you, Father Brownsell for your truth and your courage. You are a humble man, a friend to the sick and needy, but you stand like a rock on matters of principle and that is integrity.
Leadership has never been about popularity. You allowed All Saints to live and breath the Grace of God for all its wounded and imperfect parishioners. We shall never forget the love, kindness, support, tolerance and forgiveness we have received in this place. I am sure that Father Brownsell’s work will still live on even after he leaves our parish. We shall always remember his faithfulness, constancy and dedication to his priesthood. This morning, we have an opportunity to celebrate his good work. To remember the great bonds of friendship and love that he has inspired throughout the community. I am proud to say that Father Brownsell is our priest and friend. We will miss him. We ask God to bless him abundantly as he begins this new journey. We wish you a happy retirement with sincere appreciation for your faithful service, your friendship and the difference you have made in the lives of so many. You will always be remembered.
Now, as you start the next chapter of your life, rejoice in your accomplishments and we pray your future is filled with the blessings of good health, the joy of good friends, the memories of your family here at All Saints and the contentment of a job well done! We send you off not only with great affection and gratitude but with endless love and blessings. Happy Retirement - take care of yourself! We love you!
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