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Calderdale Methodist Circuit : Rev Michael Townsend

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We are sorry to announce that Michael J Townsend passed away on 15th March 2013.

Alistair Newton writes:

A passionate preacher and dedicated minister.

Michael's first contact with Methodism came when, at the age of thirteen, a school friend invited him to a service at Boutport Street Methodist Church in Barnstaple, Devon. At the age of fifteen he made a public commitment during an evangelistic rally and from then was determined to become a preacher. As a member of a mission band he began preaching, and by the age of eighteen he was a fully accredited Local Preacher.

While at Leicester University, studying English and History, he would lead three services every Sunday during his holidays. He had a love of preaching and could not keep out of the pulpit. While at University he candidated for the Methodist ministry and went to Hartley Victoria College, Manchester to complete a BD.

F. F. Bruce was one of Michael's tutors at Manchester. Bruce had a deep commitment to biblical study and a generosity of spirit, and Michael emulated such qualities in his own ministry. Other influences came with the even handedness of Henry Rack and transparent goodness of Donald English.

In his last year of ministerial formation, Michael attended a graduate school at the World Council of Churches centre at Bossey. The real purpose was to live in community and understand each tradition and culture. Of that experience he said, “I hope I have never lost the vision for the oneness of Christ’s church and our ability to be Christian brothers and sisters across all those divides.”

As a probationer minister he had pastoral charge of nine country chapels in the Selby Circuit. He then served for ten years in the Halifax Circuit before moving to the Huddersfield Pennine Circuit where he became Superintendent after a year. While in Huddersfield he was minister to the town centre mission and was the University Free-Church Chaplain. Then in Michael's own words: “Between 1994 and 2007 I had the considerable privilege of serving the Methodist Church as Chair of the Leeds District. Ministering to ministers and often to circuit stewards was very rewarding, as was the significant progress we made with the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds in implementing An Anglican-Methodist Covenant. Ecumenism has always been close to my heart.” From 2007 he served for five years as Superintendent of the Grimsby and Cleethorpes Circuit. The Calderdale Circuit briefly benefited from Michael’s preaching ministry as a Supernumerary Minister.

The ministry of Word and Sacrament coupled with pastoral care exemplified Michael's ministry. In answer to what prompted him to write the books he did, he answered: “Overall the answer to that is simple, it’s that I’m passionate about preaching.” As a circuit Local Preachers Tutor and serving on the Connexional Local Preachers Studies Board he encouraged others to proclaim the Gospel. His preparation for preaching was meticulous and he crafted a sermon with precision, never using more words than necessary. As a member of the Faith and Order Committee his liturgical expertise found expression in his contribution to The Methodist Worship Book. Ordinands benefited from his practical advice when he served as a co-leader of ordinands' retreats. His contribution was greatly valued on the Methodist Publishing House Board, Editorial Committee of the Epworth Press, Ethics of Investment Committee and he was a respected member of Conference.

Michael had a great love of music, with over 3,500 CDs and a wealth of knowledge of musical works, he was also an excellent cook and host. Having no car, he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of bus and train timetables. Michael believed what he preached and was able to respect those with differing views to his own. Throughout his ministry he accepted the first appointment offered, apart from his last as he wanted to be near to his sister Suzanne, who survives him.

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