St Michael’s Mount Dinham saw its largest congregation in many a year for the Funeral Mass for Canon John Thurmer on Monday 9th February. The church was filled with well over 250 mourners who came to give thanks for John’s long and fruitful life of 89 years and priestly ministry for 61 years. Indeed, for half a century he had served Exeter, first as the University’s Lazenby Chaplain, then as a Canon and Chancellor of the Cathedral, and in retirement as a wise and witty friend and counsellor to many as he served the Parish of St David’s with St Michael & All Angels.
During the service, great shafts of light from the rose window cut through the clouds of incense to illuminate the scene, giving the chancel and sanctuary a heavenly glow.
The singing of the hymns chosen by John, “Jerusalem the golden”, “O what their joy and their glory must be” and “Ye watchers and ye holy ones”, full of imagery and doctrine, was tremendous. The choir of nearly 30 sang the Plainsong Missa de profunctis and Propers for the Departed, Stanford’s Beati quorum via integra est, and the Russian Kontakion.
Fr Trevor Jones SSC of St Peter’s Wapping read the Lesson from Wisdom 3 with clarity and insight, and the Gospel was the Resurrection narrative from Mark 16. Solemn Mass was celebrated with simple dignity by Fr David Hastings, assisted by half a dozen servers and Frs Tom Honey and John Henton, the present and former incumbents of this Parish where Canon Thurmer served as Honorary Assistant Priest throughout his 24 years of retirement. There was no Sermon, but a biography was printed (and is linked here).
The Commendation and Committal were prayed with evident emotion by Fr David on behalf of us all. Then John Thurmer’s coffin was borne from the church through the great west doors in clouds of incense into the afternoon sunshine in a blaze of glory. O friends, in gladness let us sing.
Again on John’s instructions, there were copious amounts of sandwiches, cakes and champagne provided, in memory of a great and humble priest who taught and influenced so many. Here we acknowledge the huge debt owed to Canon John Thurmer in maintaining and shaping the worship, intellectual life and hospitality of St Michael’s during many years; his presence is greatly missed.
The words of Gerald Bray, reviewing John Thurmer’s 1987 book “The Son in the Bible and the Church”, seem appropriate. “The [then] Chancellor of Exeter Cathedral is one of that vanishing breed of Anglican churchmen – intellectual without being incomprehensible, conservative without being stuffy, and pastorally-minded without being sentimental. It is a combination which was once the glory of…”
By one of those coincidences, it was a joy to welcome Exeter College Choral Society on Thursday 12th to sing the Requiems by Gabriel Faure and John Rutter. Our thanks to Heloise West, Michael Graham, David Davies and friends for an evening of excellent music-making. St Michael’s is always pleased for performers to make use of our beautiful church.