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Ben de la Mare, 1938-2009 November 6, 2009

Posted by Andy in Uncategorized.
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I just got news that my dear friend and some time chaplain Revd. Ben de la Mare passed away last week, on the 29th October. I am in no position to tell his life story – I only met him in 1997 – but I do know that he had been a priest for most of his life, previously as chaplain in Oxford (where he met his wife, Clare Stancliffe), and most recently as a chaplain at Collingwood college and priest in charge in St Oswald’s, Durham.

BenHaving spent some time sitting at Ben’s feet in Durham, I had gotten used to meeting people that knew him. There are many, I think, that learnt to pray with him, thought through problems and explored new worlds in his company. But when I later met Ben at the Society for the Study of Theology, I discovered that he had something of a following. Every year, Ben would present his reflections on something that had perked his interest that year – a poem by Herbert, a turn of phrase in John of the Cross, or a biographical detail about Barth – and share these thoughts in what would always be an entertaining, and well attended, paper.

It is perhaps in this context of academia that I learnt Ben’s best feature. He was oblivious to judgement. Seemingly unaware of who was watching him, Ben would repeatedly commit apt and hilarious indiscretions that I refuse to believe were unintended. He was a master of the art of being inappropriate. He was always visible, always audible: you couldn’t miss him when he threw away a comment. In a variety of senses, he was too big for academia. He didn’t fit.

I’m going to miss Ben because he taught me not to fit in and showed me how to do it. He pushed me to resist following paths that are already laid out for us. So often brushed aside as a polite and potty vicar, Ben was the least orthodox of priests. Not because of his sermons, his articles or book, but because of his laugh.


1. Ian Brown (Revd) - June 7, 2010

Thank you for your kind words about Ben. I too have very fond memories and was only sorry that we were unable to meet when I last visited Durham. He had been ill. His humour was a delight as was hissense of the spiritual. Go upon thy journey Christian Soul.

2. Anonymous - December 29, 2011

Thank you Ben, My apology is too late, but very sincere,


3. Anonymous - November 10, 2012

only found out today so sorry but you changed my life . thank you

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