Sunday, 28 December 2014

Michael Vibert Harrison

From the 1987 edition of "The Pilot" is this obituary of Michael Harrison. I met him on a number of occasions as he organised "quiet days" at St Ouen's Manor, where there was an opportunity to get away from the rat race, and just sit and enjoy the lovely gardens and grounds.

Michael Vibert Harrison
Rector of St Mary, 1972-1986
by Barry Giles
"AND be thou a faithful dispenser of the Word of God and of His Holy Sacraments." That seems to sum up the person and character of Michael Harrison. Knowing him for some fourteen years, I cannot but believe that those words were true of almost the whole of his life.
Like many clergy, he received his vocation to the priesthood at a very early age. There is evidence that as a young boy he was already taking services in his playroom - and taking collections! Michael's love for His Lord and His Church, for music and for Jersey and South Africa rose out of his home and family background.
His mother made the not-inconsiderable voyage from South Africa in 1919 in order that her child would be born in Jersey. His grandmother and aunt took Michael to St Mark's Church, where he learnt his faith, and the beauty of music. He used to tell of cycling to various churches, including St Mary's, to ask if he could play the organ. His organ scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford, after being at Victoria College Prep and Westminster School, and later his training for the priesthood at Lincoln Theological College, all gave intellectual depth to his vocation, and breadth to his musical gifts and ability.
After a curacy in Surrey, his priestly vocation called him to mission; and that was expressed in twenty years of solid work and witness in the Diocese of Cape Town, in South Africa. They were not easy years, politically. The twenty years after the Second World War saw the rise of Apartheid, which would not have made ministering to congregations of Anglicans of all races and colours normal. Nor was the parochial arrangement of scattered churches, some many miles apart, the sort of work known to English parish clergy, in those days.
His love for Christ's people, and his love for South Africa bore fruit, certainly among his flock, and supremely in the love which he found for and in, Joan. That meant leaving South Africa, and in 1967 he returned to England and he and Joan were married, in St Mark's Church, Jersey. Their love, and team-work, were the basis of his ministry thereon. After four years in the Diocese of Newcastle, they came to Jersey.
There is a sense in which Michael Harrison and the Parish of St Mary were made for each other. His faithfulness and diligence in visiting; his preaching and teaching; the way in which he did not always `suffer fools gladly' and in honesty and straightforwardness would say so, made him an ideal priest in a small country parish, steeped in Jersey life and ways.
His love for God, his love for Joan and their children, his love for Jersey and South Africa, all came together as it were, in his love for St Mary's.
But he was not blinkered. His work with and for the Jersey Council of Churches Faith & Order Committee showed the breadth of his vision. His activity in the musical world of Jersey, in the Organists Association, with the foundation of the Haydn Singers, and his membership of the Jersey Gleemen, came together in the marvellous tradition of Music at St Mary's, where he encouraged musicians of all ages and kinds to make music in that parish church on Sunday afternoons.
We shall miss Michael, from our fellowship here on earth. Over the past years he had endured much ill-health, with major heart operations, until finally another operation, but this time an abdominal one, caused his valiant heart to stop: although Joan was able to bring him back from Paris to his beloved Island. To her, and to Christopher and Amanda we extend our love, and our prayers and support. For Michael we give thanks, praying for the repose of his soul in that heavenly place where love and music come together, with the choirs of angels and saints.
Two `texts' come to mind: first an adapation of an ancient antiphon; the other quoted by the Dean at Michael's funeral:
Behold, a great priest who in his days pleased God: well done, good and faithful servant: enter thou into the Joy of Thy Lord.
Barry Giles

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