Church gift a lasting memory of clergyman Michael

A Broseley clergyman and local historian is to have an enduring legacy through church vestments which have been designed and created in his memory.

The Rev Michael Pope of Broseley
The Rev Michael Pope of Broseley

The Rev Michael Pope died in April 2020 and his funeral was severely curtailed by Covid restrictions. Now a thanksgiving service has been organised at All Saints' Church, Broseley, at noon on May 21.

The Rev Michael Pope of Broseley

It will include the blessing of a specially commissioned chasuble, which is worn over the robes of the priest, and stole.

Mr Pope served as vicar of Gnosall, in Staffordshire, for 21 years before retiring with his wife Gillian to Broseley in 2000, where they became heavily involved in the town's local history society, and also Broseley in Bloom.

Despite his retirement he took regular services in the Telford area and helped with services in the Broseley group of parishes, particularly during a long interregnum between the Rev Sue Beverley leaving and the arrival of the Rev Christopher Penn.

In his last days he completed writing a booklet about the history of All Saints' Church in Broseley and was delighted to see it had been printed the week before his death.

His widow, Gillian, said: "Michael died on April 3, 2020, which was the week after everything shut down because of the Covid pandemic. He had cancer and knew he had not long to live and wrote his funeral service and wrote out his life which he hoped would be read at the service. In the event there were just nine of us at the crematorium."

The easing of the Covid situation has at last provided the opportunity to hold a thanksgiving service.

Mrs Pope said: "I had permission for a chasuble to be made for the church's use in memory of Michael. A company in Much Wenlock has designed it, and it's beautiful."

A different colour chasuble is worn by the priest depending on the time of year in the church calendar, such as white at Easter and purple at lent. The chasuble in memory of Michael is green, which is the colour for "ordinary time" which covers most of the church year.

The design includes a Celtic cross – a nod to his Welsh ancestry – and waves, reflecting his love of the sea.

"The priest will bless the chasuble and will wear it for the communion part of the service, and afterwards it will be used every week in the church when it is the green 'ordinary time'," said Mrs Pope.

"Following the service we are going to inter Michael's ashes, as was his wish, in the old part of the cemetery in my parents' grave."

Mr Pope was born in September 1937 at Munstone, a hamlet near Hereford, and on leaving school worked for estate agents Russell, Baldwin and Bright.

Signing up for National Service, he served in the RAF in Aden, and two periods of leave hitchhiking with friends around East Africa were to change his life. Impressed by the contribution Christianity had made in the fields of education, health care, and the abolition of the slave trade, he wrote in his diary: "When I return to England, I shall offer myself to be ordained in the Church of England."

His curacy was in the parishes of Broseley with Benthall and Jackfield, and after being ordained priest he helped cover a large number of services in the Broseley area, and started a drama group in the town. It was also in Broseley that he met his future wife Gillian Dixon, whose parents kept the newsagents and post office in High Street.

Later he moved to St Giles' Church in London Road, Shrewsbury, for a second curacy, and with Gillian started a youth club in Abbey Foregate. In 1970 he was offered the position of priest-in-charge of St George's at Frankwell, which the diocese wanted to close, but Mr Pope fought successfully to keep it open.

He became vicar of Gnosall in June 1979.

Mr Pope is survived by Gillian and daughters Helen and Caroline, and was proud that he was able to marry both of them, and baptised his four grandchildren.

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