I had a friend at university who only befriended lunatics and eccentrics because he thought every one else was frightfully dull in comparison. As one of those friends it left me wondering which category he placed me in?!
The Church of England used to produce a slew of fine eccentrics who made the world a more colourful and better place. Sadly they are dying out in an age of boring bureaucrats. We might think here of the inventor of the modern harvest festival, Rev. Hawker, shot at by his own parishioners not because he enjoyed dressing as a mermaid and singing to the sea but because said singing was so dreary and awful. Or the Rev. Ian Graham-Orlebar who rode around his parish in the 1960’s on horseback because he detested what he called ‘modern motorised clergy’. He later caused bedlam on the roads of Bedfordshire having told parishioners that the highway code had changed meaning roundabouts were obsolete and driving had switched from left to the right.
By comparison to these chaps Fr. Geoffrey Kirk was normal. But he was nevertheless one of the more colourful and interesting characters within the Anglo-Catholic movement in the latter part of the 20th Century. Ever at the elbow of then bishop (now Monsignor) John Broadhurst he helped forge Forward in Faith, a movement formed to defend an orthodox expression of faith in the face modernist changes. He was its intellectual head.
Because he possessed an intoxicating blend of genuine wit and searing intellect he was ever an irritant to the beige hierarchy of the Church of England of his day. I delighted in the articles he wrote which were ever mischievous but bang on the money. Behind the impish, sometimes even waspish, satire was a fine theologian indeed. And one who genuinely lamented the decline of Christianity in the modern world.
When I was ordained an Anglican Fr. Kirk was incredibly supportive and welcoming. He always looked out for me at meetings of the Society of the Holy Cross and encouraged me to start writing for the journal New Directions. He would often telephone for a chinwag and we would invariable fall about laughing at some point. Though a dour Yorkshireman when it suited him he did enjoy a good joke! And boy could he cook.
Fr. Kirk was diabetic and his health took a bad turn some years ago. Despite suffering poor health he joined the Ordinariate as a layman within the parish of the Most Sacred Blood in London. Fr. Kirk passed away on Good Friday. He will be missed. His was ever a prophetic voice of clarity and truth at a time of chaos and confusion.
Jesu mercy, Mary pray. Rest in peace dear friend.