Gospel Oak vicar retires on his 70th birthday
'The only thing that saved me from a complete meltdown was Christianity'
08 May, 2018 — By Steve Barnett
Reverend Chris Brice with, from left, his son Nick, daughter-in-law Fiona with Henry 2, daughter Caroline, wife Kate, daughter Helena and son Peter
THERE were prayers and poetry on Sunday morning as “a community full of warmth” gathered in Gospel Oak to bid a fond farewell to their vicar.
Reverend Chris Brice has retired after 10 years serving at St Martin’s Church in Vicar’s Road. As part of a double celebration that also marked his 70th birthday today (Thursday), well-wishing worshippers turned out at a special Sunday service with cakes and gifts, including a framed picture of St Martin’s and flowers.
“It was a lovely occasion, with regular worshipers, the wider community and people from the past coming together under the wings of the church,” said Father Brice.
Reflecting on the church-goers and friends who stood up to wish him well and thank him for his time in Gospel Oak, Father Brice added: “It was heartening to hear, I was very moved. It was wonderful that my family could be there to share the occasion.”
Regular worshipper Jean Kelley, 84, added a very personal touch to her farewell message in the shape of a poem entitled Seaology to Theology, acknowledging Father Brice’s time in the Royal Navy. Among the lines and verses, it read: “While serving with his merchant fleet, he had a higher calling and had his own epiphany, as into despair was falling.” It was a moment in his life, some 45 years ago, that Father Brice has referred to during his services, when, in the midst of active service, he suddenly had “a breakdown” and turned to God.
He recalled: “I was a naval officer in the Royal Navy, serving with the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment. I was in my mid-20s and, on the surface, my career was going extremely well. Out of nowhere I suddenly had a breakdown. I thought to myself, I’m going to die. The only thing that saved me from a complete meltdown was the Christianity that I had learned as a child. “I said to the Lord, ‘If I survive I’ll go into the church and serve God’. And that’s what happened – by the time I was 32 I was ordained.”