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St John's College


Memorial Choral Evensong for Canon Dr Tim Yates

(23 November 2016)

On Wednesday 19th October a memorial choral evensong was held for Canon Dr Tim Yates, one of our former Wardens of the College. On this occasion the sermon was preached by Jo Cundy, a close friend of Tim and Mally and herself married to another former Warden, Bishop Ian Cundy. Here is the text of the sermon.

On Wednesday 19th October a memorial choral evensong was held for Canon Dr Tim Yates, one of our former Wardens of the College. On this occasion the sermon was preached by Jo Cundy, a close friend of Tim and Mally and herself married to another former Warden, Bishop Ian Cundy. Here is the text of the sermon.

Choral Evensong – 19th October 2016 – Tim Yates Memorial Service

Micah 3 – 4 v.2, John 17 v.20 – end, Psalm 11, Henry Martyn day.



That the world may believe that you have sent me.

That many nations shall come and say, ‘let us go up to the mountain of the Lord’.


Today is a very appropriate day to be remembering Tim Yates and celebrating the life of someone who had such a real focus on mission and evangelism. It is the day when the church remembers Henry Martyn and his mission as a translator and in taking the gospel to India and Persia in the early 1800’s– and for me that is particularly special because the Cundy’s were a west country family closely related to the Martyns, and my father-in-law was christened HMC, and Ian and his brothers all had Martyn as what the Victorians would call a ‘plate name’. 


And today the lectionary happens to have given us some very appropriate and interesting readings:-

In John 17 Jesus is praying for the disciples, and for those who will hear the gospel and believe in him through their word . . . that the world may believe; that the world may know.

In Micah, after the fierce condemnation in chapter 3, we come to the promises at the beginning of chapter 4, that peoples will stream to the mountain of the Lord’s house, and that nations shall come and say ‘let us go up to the house of the God of Jacob’.

Psalm 100, reinforces this, ‘O be joyful in the Lord, all the earth’.

We are reminded that outreach and mission are the imperatives of the gospel. 


Henry Martyn was called to spend and be spent as a chaplain and missionary overseas with the East India Company, translating God’s word for the peoples he was living amongst,

a brilliant mathematician and linguist, dying much too young in a remote corner of Turkey, on his way back to visit his Cornish home and family.

Tim was called here to teach and train those who were going to go out into the world with the gospel, called to teach them the history of the church and of the many faithful disciples and missionaries who spread Christianity across the whole world –

. . . that people might believe in Jesus, that people might know.


I want to be realistic, Wardens of Cranmer Hall come and go, and with the rotating cycle of students, ordinands and staff, they gradually disappear into history. 

I know this as I realise that Ian’s tenure of the role of Warden ended 24 years ago, and there is a glazed expression on the face of current ordinands when his name is mentioned, or I talk of living here in Cranmer 30 years ago – and Tim as Ian’s predecessor bar one left here even longer ago, 37 years ago. But Wardens leave their legacy, and sometimes it is a continuing legacy and continuing involvement. Having given 16 years to the life of the College first as a tutor and then as Warden, Tim continued to contribute as a member of Council and more recently on the Development Board; but for his untimely death he would have been here for meetings earlier this year, and Mally would have been having catch-ups with some of us over coffee or lunch in the Cathedral Undercroft. 


In talking about Tim today, I feel a bit of a ‘Jo come lately’ because ‘the Tim’ that I knew was happily retired to their lovely home in Bakewell, a gracious and welcoming host, and we were brought together and united by our commitment and love for College, our friendship with Ruth Etchells, and also a shared interest in the early missionary endeavours in NZ. 

We would sit and talk, putting the church, the world, and the College to rights, as one does, with Tim enveloped in a wonderfully capacious sofa. 

But most of all I enjoyed sharing our mutual interest in the early missionaries to NZ, because my great great grandfather went there with CMS in the 1830s. We would discuss details around the people and the places, and the way that the mission grew and expanded, and we could share experiences of the various places that we had both visited in NZ, and of working our way through the various archives housed in Wellington and Dunedin. I learned so much from him, and for me his excellent book, ‘The Conversion of the Maori’ with the results of his extensive research, remains fascinating and very informative. My efforts are still ‘work in progress’!


I am conscious that there are many people here today who knew Tim at other times and in other contexts, but today is an occasion to give thanks for Tim in the context of St John’s and Cranmer, to celebrate all that he gave to College, and all that this place meant to him and Mally.


I have enjoyed collecting reminiscences of ‘the Tim’ that other people knew, those who had studied with him and worked with him. And they paint a picture of someone who had courtesy and gravitas, was gracious and prayerful, quiet and dependable, a fine scholar and a pastoral presence, deeply grounded in scripture – and also someone with a fine sense of humour, witty, and a good cricketer, a ‘whole life’ Christian. In the Councils of the College he was also someone who in any debate was a good listener, a stabilising presence, and had a strategic mind.


Tim arrived as a bachelor tutor in 1963 to teach doctrine and church history. The College was much smaller then, all of the students and ordinands were men and most were unmarried.

John Cockerton was then Warden of Cranmer, later to become Principal, and was also a bachelor. Fifty years ago this term, in 1966 the ranks of this all male bastion were breached to welcome eight women to study in Cranmer, and with them Mally arrived as the first woman tutor. At this time St John’s was a very collegiate set-up where everyone lived on site and all meals were taken communally. So it is intriguing to imagine the friendship of two colleagues discreetly blossoming into romance and courtship until a surprise announcement of their engagement. Indeed, this feat of surprise romance was to be repeated six years later when John Cockerton, then Principal, stunned the College having asked the Warden, Tim, and the Senior Tutor to announce his engagement to one of the women students in Cranmer.


Tim and Mally were married in this chapel at Christmas 1968, mid-year with no spare accommodation for a newly married couple, and so they started married life in a couple of student rooms at the top of No. 23, with a tiny kitchen and a bathroom that students occasionally forgot was no longer theirs!

Thereafter No.11 became home to them, and to their family as Catherine and Mark were born. There are memories of the warmth and hospitality of their home, and someone who was an 18 year old undergraduate at the time, remembers Mally pushing the pram along the Bailey on Sunday mornings to St Nics, where Tim was an honorary curate and had a wide influence as chaplain to the students in the congregation. 


Cranmer Hall is a community, a place where we live and move and have our being, and in Tim and Mally’s day it was even more so than it is today. Like Ian and myself they lived on site – this was home and work and community – they were immersed in College, and in the generations of students who came and went. It was a total experience. 

In our day, when we arrived some 5 years after Tim and Mally left, as well as resident single tutors in John’s Hall, there were four College staff families living on the Bailey – all with children – in Nos 11,15, 17 & 7 – and we in No 7 had a connecting door into College.

The children were in and out of each others houses, played outside on the College lawns – more extensive then – enjoyed a succession of student baby-sitters, and the families met in College over Sunday lunch. Perhaps Mally remembers the joys of College cooking with those indeterminate slices of Sunday roast meat identified only by the sauce – apple sauce or bread sauce distinguishing the light meats, mint sauce or horseradish the dark. We have come a long way since then!


Tim was part of the rich inheritance and roll call which St John’s and Cranmer can offer.

The partnership of Tim and John Cockerton came at a crucial time in the development of the College. It is worth stepping back in time to the evangelical world of the 60’s and 70’s, a period of confident growth firmly rooted in scripture, and which produced some great preachers, scholars and pastors. There were, as ever, changes afoot in theological training, and there were four evangelical colleges on offer –

- the newly united Trinity College in Bristol under Alec Motyer an OT scholar,

- Oakhill in London with on-site housing for families and David Wheaton as Principal,

- St John’s in Nottingham under Michael Green, regarded by some as the ‘all singing, all dancing’ exponent of the charismatic movement, and . . .

. . . - here in Durham Cranmer was offering the riches of Durham’s prestigious theology department with a 2 year degree for ordinands. Cranmer was ‘on the up’, establishing its reputation for scholarship and quiet grounded scriptural evangelicalism. Although St John’s was vulnerable as a small independent College in the University, under Tim and John it was acquiring the vibrance and potential that Ruth Etchells would inherit and build on to secure its future when she became Principal towards the end of Tim’s time. Her brief overlap with Tim was special because Ruth was one of Mally’s oldest and closest friends.


It is an immense sadness and loss to College that both John Cockerton and Tim died in the winter of last year, almost within weeks of each other. Both contributed so much. 


St John’s and Cranmer become part of your DNA, they remain an integral part of your life. Tim became the College historian writing ‘A College Remembered’ in 1978 for the College’s 70th anniversary, and distilling into it a wealth of factual and descriptive detail. Currently each term our SCR Newsletter finishes with a quotation from the book giving some apt, curious or entertaining reminiscence of the way that things were. 

Tim came from a parish and returned to a parish, and he was able to offer both his considerable intellectual and academic wisdom and knowledge, and also his experience and understanding of pastoral parish ministry. Above all he had a heart for mission and evangelism and could inspire generations of students to take the gospel out with them into their ministry, into the increasingly secular modern world. It is interesting to me that both Tim and Ian, as Wardens, taught church history, and interesting to see how their specific interests developed – for Ian it led to a focus on ecumenism and church unity, and for Tim it led into a focus on missiology through his study of Henry Venn and the CMS, which led to his book ‘Henry Venn and the Victorian Bishops Abroad’, and to his doctorate from Uppsala University. 

This focus on missiology remains relevant now, because we learn from the past, and are inspired and encouraged to find our own ways of interpreting the gospel for our world and our society. We still need to take on board the importance both of the history of mission

and the doing of it – Mission matters, it mattered in the past and it matters now. Perhaps that is why, when Tim left the realms of academe, he found happiness and fulfilment being back in parish life in Darley Dale – and I remember my Ian, when Warden, leading a team of Cranmer ordinands on a mission in Tim’s parish – really putting their missiology into practice . . . as indeed this generation of ordinands do, having their own opportunities, and exploring ‘fresh expressions’ for today’s world; and as they will be doing next March when they are involved in the ‘Talking Jesus’ mission in this diocese. Justin Welby, from another generation of Cranmer ordinands, has stated that he sees the priorities of his ministry to be ‘prayer, reconciliation, and evangelism’ – a fundamental trio of touchstones for how the church, and we as Christians, can reach out and make an impact in the world.


We celebrate today the generations of ordinands who came under Tim’s guidance and formation, receiving his wisdom and teaching; we celebrate his many contributions to College over the years; we celebrate his friendship, and what he and Mally and the family brought to the life of Cranmer and of St John’s;

I want to end with Tim’s own words about Henry Martyn, from his brilliant little book ‘The Expansion of Christianity’, an encyclopaedic overview of 2,000 years of mission in a nutshell


‘Henry Martyn had been one of the leading young Cambridge intellects of his day and was a winner of university prizes. He and other Cambridge men of his time had been influenced by the long ministry of Charles Simeon, with his preaching of the gospel for all peoples.

Martyn proved a brilliant linguist and translator. He was appointed a chaplain in the East India Company in 1805, translated the New Testament into Urdu and Persian and prepared an Arabic version before his early death from tuberculosis aged 31 in 1812. His Indian assistant converted from Islam to become a Christian missionary colleague and notable advocate of the faith, and was eventually ordained in 1825 as the first Indian Anglican clergyman. . . .

Others were inspired by Martyn’s life of scholarship and devotion.’


May we remain inspired by Tim’s life of scholarship and devotion, and his focus on the gospel imperatives of mission and evangelism.


Jesus prayed: That the world may know that you have sent me; that world may believe. 

St John wrote: This is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.

Fides Nostra Victoria. Amen

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