Bishop Grant remembered as a gift to church, city and family

Archbishop Freier describes Bishop James Grant as 'an outstanding Anglican' during funeral at St Paul's Cathedral.

Dean Andreas Loewe, Archbishop Philip Freier and Bishop Lindsay Urwin lead the funeral cortege along Flinders Street as Bishop James Grant leaves St Paul's Cathedral, where he was ordained, consecrated and served as Dean for 15 years, for the last time. Bishop Grant, who died on 10 July aged 87, is to be privately interred in Geelong.

By Mark Brolly

July 19 2019 

Bishop James Grant was remembered as a pivotal figure in the Anglican Church, as a powerful paternal influence in his family – even as “Mr Melbourne” when Dean – at his funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral on 19 July.

A former Bishop of Wangaratta, Bishop David Farrer, said the Choral Eucharist of Thanksgiving for the Life and Work of Bishop Grant would help family, friends and colleagues to come to terms with Bishop Grant's sudden death on 10 July “and with Bishop Grant’s death there’s some emphasis in all of this because he seems to have been around forever”. “As a friend of mine said on hearing the news of James’ death: ‘It never occurred to me that he would die!’

“He’s always been there,” Bishop Farrer said. “There are several generations of laypeople and clergy who’ve never known Melbourne and the diocese when James Grant was not here.

“Our grief and sorrow are perfectly natural and appropriate reactions for we will not see them here again and we are never ready to let them go because we love them. Grief is the cost of love and commitment.”

Bishop James Grant, a former assistant Bishop of Melbourne and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral from 1985-99, died after 60 years in ordained ministry and almost half a century as a bishop. He was 87.

Archbishop Philip Freier broke his leave to preside at the funeral, telling the congregation in the Cathedral and livestreaming the service on Facebook: “Today, we give thanks for an outstanding Anglican. For more than 60 years, Bishop James served this diocese and the people of Melbourne through his ministry as a bishop, including as Administrator of this diocese, as a chaplain and parish priest, through his leadership in schools and places of learning, and his mentoring of clergy ordinands.

“James had a remarkable capacity of holding together the past and the future.

“It is fitting that Bishop James should be commemorated here at St Paul’s, the place where he was ordained, consecrated and which he served as its 12th Dean.

“As we give thanks to God for Bishop Jim, we ask that his life of service might inspire us to share God’s gift of love with others and we pray that the firm and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life that Christ came to bring to all who mourn.”

Professor Fiona Judd, Bishop Grant’s niece, was eulogist, offering reflections from the late bishop’s family. She is Perinatal Psychiatrist at Royal Hobart Hospital and was Inaugural Director of the Centre for Women's Mental Health at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne. In the Queen’s Birthday Australian honours last month, she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to medicine, to medical education, as a clinical psychiatrist and academic, and to professional bodies.

To his nephew and three nieces, Professor Judd said: “Uncle James was a powerful paternal influence, providing an important father figure.

“He provided opportunities for us that would otherwise have not been possible, such as the opportunity to attend private school. But he did not enforce this or anything else upon us.

“He was never authoritarian but always compassionate and loving, and tried to foster in us our separate talents. He always told us we could be whatever we wanted to be.

“In our early adult years, he variously assisted us all with practical advice and emotional support and also generously with financial support, all with a view to helping us establish ourselves as model, capable and independent individuals. He was supportive of our life choices, welcomed our chosen partners into the family and was always interested in what we were doing.

“He willingly engaged with us in a range of experiences and activities we exposed him to, including submitting himself to riding on a steam locomotive we ran on the property at Mount Macedon.

“As a result of his scholarly pursuits and extensive experience with people of all kinds and class, there was never a topic on which he could not provide some unique and intellectually interesting insight.

“Importantly, when disputes developed within the family – as occurs in all families – he tried to be impartial, to be supportive of us all and to display his Scottish common sense.

“All of us, and I suspect many of you, were grateful recipients of his wonderful home produce – marmalade, chutney and quince jelly. At family gatherings, he always brought a collection for distribution between us and often we would barter with each another for more of the one which was our favourite variety. Mine was his quince jelly.”

Professor Judd said when her uncle married Rowena Armstrong in 1983, his nieces and nephew had been anxious that their relationship with him would change “but of course it did not”.

“The only change was we now had both Uncle James and Rowena,” she said. “We were doubly blessed and we trust and pray that Rowena will long continue in the life of the family, as Uncle James would so have wanted.

“We are so fortunate to have had him in our lives. As my brother Cameron said to me only yesterday: ‘Uncle James was a towering figure who spoke ill of no one, always saw the best in people and was loyal and devoted to his family. Thank you, Uncle James. You will always be in our hearts and your legacies to family and the people of Victoria and the Church will live on for many generations.”

Bishop Farrer, who preached the Sermon, said Bishop Grant’s life was grounded in prayer, worship “and a very keen awareness of the reality of God”.

“But these things were not worn as badges of honour or showing some degree of pietism. He was truly content to celebrate, as he did on the day he died, a weekday Eucharist for a small congregation.”

He also said Bishop Grant was a great supporter of clergy and ordinands.

“There are clergy here today whose vocations were supported or even rescued by James who have gone on to significant ministries in the diocese and beyond.

“In preparing this address, a couple of things became clear in my own life that Bishop James would never have spoken about. When I was invited to an appointment here in Melbourne while I was in the Diocese of Adelaide, there was a resistance to my return to this diocese as – uncharacteristically – I had disagreed with the decision about my direction in life as seen by the diocesan administrators years earlier.

“James Grant came and visited us in the parish of Adelaide, just a friendly visit. It took some time to realise what he was doing and why the pathway was suddenly smooth.

“I’m aware of at least one other person who had a visit from James, not in this country but in the UK, for a not dissimilar purpose.”

Bishop Farrer is a former Vicar of Christ Church Brunswick and said when Bishop Grant married his (Bishop Farrer’s) Vicar’s Warden Rowena Armstrong in 1983, he didn’t spirit her away from the parish but strengthened his own connection there.

He described theirs as a wonderful union between two very special people, people who were meant for each other, “and I’m sure I was not the only one to notice certain changes in the attire and general presentation of James that followed their marriage”.

Bishop Farrer said Bishop Grant was “naturally conservative” but was willing to embrace change, quoting former Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie: “Churches are habitually engaged in correcting their own past but such change is done by amendment, by development and not by repudiation.”

“James was steeped in the Scriptures and so understood the need for new ways of interaction between church and culture,” Bishop Farrer said.

“James’ appointment as Dean of Melbourne was a great inspiration because given his knowledge and his memory, there was a sense in which he was ‘Mr Melbourne’. He knew everybody! He was a true pastor in the old village sense of being the parson …

“James, what you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone but what is woven into our lives. And so James, with fondness, affection and gratitude, we bid you farewell, entrust you gladly, willingly, confidently to God who sent you among us.”

The current and 15th Dean of Melbourne, the Very Revd Dr Andreas Loewe, said the funeral was an opportunity to give thanks to God for the gift of Bishop Grant’s life and ministry “and to commend him to God, who called him to serve here in this place and Who now has called him home”.

Archbishop Freier, Dr Loewe and the Vicar of Christ Church Brunswick, Bishop Lindsay Urwin, led the funeral cortege from the Cathedral east along Flinders Street almost as far as Russell Street. Bishop Grant is to be interred at a family funeral in Geelong, where he spent some of his formative years, on 20 July.

  • The Brotherhood of St Laurence and Melbourne Girls Grammar paid public tribute to Bishop Grant on the days of his funeral at St Paul’s and of his private burial in Geelong the following day.

In a notice in The Age on 19 July, the Brotherhood said its former Chair had served the organisation in different roles from 1968-96.

“Charter and Life Members, the Board and Staff of the Brotherhood, deeply regret the passing of Bishop James Grant AM, whose commitment to working with those in poverty and disadvantage included serving as the Chair of our Board for 15 years from 1971 to 1987,” the notice said.

“Under Bishop Grant’s Chairmanship, the Brotherhood took a strong interest in employment and taxation, called for increased social security benefits, expanded services for families and older people and shone a spotlight on child poverty.

“We extend our profound condolences to his wife Rowena Armstrong QC AO, family and friends.”

On 20 July, a notice in the same newspaper from Melbourne Girls Grammar read: “The Chairman and members of School Council, Principal, staff and students, both past and present, parents and friends of Melbourne Girls Grammar give thanks for the life and work of Bishop James Grant, AM, in his roles as Deputy Chairman and Chairman of Council from 1985-1995. His wisdom, warmth and generosity of spirit will be remembered by all who knew him.

“Our deepest sympathy is extended to his wife, Rowena and all those who were close to him, during this time of grieving and celebration.”

The notice concluded with the school motto, Nisi Dominus Frustra (“Unless God be with us, all will be in vain”)