7 December 2022

Farewell to a legendary school chaplain and faithful priest

The Reverend Dr Brian Porter was a longtime school chaplain. Picture: supplied

Muriel Porter

15 November 2022

The Reverend Dr Brian Porter, who has died at the age of 83, was a faithful priest, considerable scholar, diocesan identity, and legendary school chaplain. He was also my husband for almost 50 years.

Brian was born on 27 May 1939 in Caulfield. As a server at the family’s parish church, St Agnes’ Glen Huntly, he was mentored by a succession of fine priests, who tutored him in catholic Anglicanism, and fostered his priestly vocation.

His first career, however, was in teaching. After a few years teaching history and literature, he studied for the ministry at Cuddesdon Theological College, near Oxford, from 1966. (The Melbourne diocese then offered ordinands the opportunity to train in England). Ordained to the diaconate in Melbourne in 1968, he was rescued from an unhappy curacy when his boyhood headmaster, the Reverend Stanley Kurrle, offered him a history teaching position at The King’s School, Parramatta, where he was then headmaster.

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Priested in Melbourne in 1971, Brian returned to teach at King’s, also becoming honorary associate priest at St James’ King Street, Sydney, where I sang in the choir. After we married in 1973, we went to Cambridge, where he undertook a theology degree.

Returning to Australia in 1975, he was appointed Head of History and Assistant Chaplain at Canberra Grammar School, becoming the Chaplain in 1978. During our time in Canberra, our children Patrick and Emily were born. We moved to Camberwell in December 1982, when he became chaplain at Ivanhoe Grammar School; after 15 years at Ivanhoe, he was appointed Senior Chaplain at Melbourne Grammar School. On retirement from Melbourne Grammar in 2004, he became part-time chaplain at Brighton Grammar School, a position he held for four years.

Throughout his school roles, Brian always generously functioned as an honorary associate priest in the parishes where we worshipped, and also contributed generously to the wider church. He was area dean of Heidelberg, chair of Chaplains in Anglican Schools Victoria, secretary of the Council for Chaplaincies in Tertiary Institutions, and research fellow and adjunct lecturer at Trinity College Theological School. In retirement, he was locum vicar in five Melbourne parishes, in some for lengthy periods.

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Always a voracious reader of current theological works, he particularly loved his 25-year role as book review editor of The Melbourne Anglican. He edited a number of books, including Melbourne Anglicans: The Diocese of Melbourne 1847-1997, the official publication for the Diocese’s 150th anniversary. Two books of his own work were published: From the Chaplain, a collection of his contributions to the Melbourne Grammar School weekly newsletter, and Frank Woods: Archbishop of Melbourne 1957-77, based on his doctoral thesis.

He was a strong, vocal advocate for the ordination of women, and was my greatest supporter through the difficult years of the women’s ordination debate. He was also a strong advocate for the full inclusion of gay people in the ministry and life of the church. Generations of school boys, school staff and parishioners fondly remember his wise, insightful pastoral care, his fine preaching and liturgical leadership, and his warm friendship, as attested in the avalanche of messages I have received.

He died peacefully on 29 October at Karana Baptcare Community, Kew, where he had been lovingly cared for since May 2020, when the progression of Alzheimer’s disease made residential care necessary. Through the good offices of the chaplain, Samantha Lo, his priestly ministry remained active until the end as, with her assistance, he offered the blessing at the end of each Sunday service at Karana.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

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