Vale Stephen Cherry - kind, eccentric and grounded in faith

By Beryl Rule

May 3 2018The Revd Richard (Stephen) Cherry, who died on 29 March aged 84, was ordained to the priesthood in 1961. He ministered in the Melbourne parishes of Essendon, Vermont, Reservoir West, Berwick, East Malvern and more recently at St Faith’s Burwood; lectured at Ridley College and Deaconess House, and was Area Dean of Dandenong. He also served in the dioceses of Riverina and Bendigo. Psalms and Readings, which he did for TMA over a number of years, was seen in the paper’s print version and then online.

In 1965 a young Stephen’s series of lectures at an Evangelical Union conference in Sydney greatly impressed a third year Arts Student, Charles Sherlock, who recalled that these addresses “rang bells – scripturally grounded, they mixed theological analysis with mildly eccentric passion and humour”.

A decade later both men were members of the Melbourne Diocesan Liturgy Committee. “Stephen was its secretary, and I was teaching theology and liturgy at Ridley,” Dr Sherlock wrote. “Its meetings were never dull when Stephen was there! His Minutes were extraordinary – notes on Greek phrases, comments on BCP rubrics, asides on what some Father or Reformer wrote, quotations from people like Gerald Manley Hopkins... and full accounts of our discussion... ”

The two men, who shared “a common interest in lectionaries”, remained friends until Stephen’s death.

“I thank God for Stephen Cherry, especially his eccentric kindness that kept him true to himself, the Christian theological tradition, and the Lord Jesus Christ in whom he put his trust,”
Dr Sherlock said.

The Revd Emily Payne, vicar of St Faith’s Burwood, preached the homily at Stephen’s funeral and she too used the words “eccentric” and “kind” to describe him.

“I suspect that Stephen didn’t quite realise the worth of even the small things he did,” she said. “Even in my own relationship with him, late in his life, I knew him to be unfailingly kind, thoughtful and generous; and if he was also eccentric, with a critical eye for details of liturgy and preaching (the “feedback email” on Sunday afternoon with half a dozen dot points was a feature of my life for a while), his intellectual passions were always exercised on behalf of a truth he knew had the power to transform human lives. I hope that when he does see with the eyes of eternity, he’ll be delighted to discover just how much the Lord did with the seeds Stephen sowed in his lifetime.”