The Venerable Michael Brown
(Filed: 21/02/2004)
 

The Venerable Michael Brown, who has died aged 88, was Archdeacon of Nottingham from 1960 to 1977; for 10 years before that, he was assistant secretary of the Church of England's Council for Training for the Ministry, responsible for the selection of some thousands of ordination candidates.

He also rendered notable service to the Royal Marines, first as a wartime chaplain, when he was severely wounded and lost the use of his right arm during the fighting in the Netherlands in 1945; then, in retirement, when he was an honorary officiating chaplain of the Royal Marines' School of Music at Deal.

On September 1 1989 he was on duty at Deal when an IRA attack killed 11 bandsmen and injured 22 others; he was later to describe the experience as "the worst day of my life".

Michael Rene Warneford Brown was born at Gravesend, Kent, on June 7 1915. At King's School, Rochester, he became head boy and a member of the first XV, described as "a tall, lanky forward". He read History and Theology at St Peter's College, Oxford, then stayed on to prepare for Holy Orders at St Stephen's House.

Brown delayed his ordination for a time to teach as a layman at Christ's Hospital, Horsham; but in 1941 he was ordained by George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester, and, while continuing to teach, served also as a curate at West Grinstead.

In 1943 he enlisted as a chaplain, RNVR, and was posted to the Royal Marines at Deal. He was thus involved in their intensive preparations for the invasion of Europe, and it was while advancing on Germany with them he was hit by shrapnel, which led to a long spell in hospital and the loss of the use of his arm.

On his return to civilian life, Brown spent a year as chaplain of his old Oxford college and as a curate of the university church, before being appointed a lecturer at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, where his teaching ability was greatly valued.

He continued this on a part-time basis until 1952, but in 1948 he became a Fellow of St Augustine's College, Canterbury, which had just been established as a staff college for leaders of the Anglican Church worldwide. Besides teaching, he served as college librarian, and also took charge of the nearby parish of Bekesbourne during a long interregnum.

In 1950 Brown began his 10-year stint at Church House, Westminster. This was at a time when a large number of ex-servicemen were offering for ordination, and it was his task to deal with their applications, organise selection conferences and guide the successful candidates to appropriate theological colleges.

He was also chaplain to the entire Church House staff, and became an Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Southwell, then to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Geoffrey Fisher.

In 1960 the Bishop of Southwell, F R Barry, who often looked to Church House staff with good war records for his archdeacons, invited Brown to become Archdeacon of Nottingham. A distinguished scholar, Barry was by this time becoming old and deaf; and Brown's combination of pastoral and administrative gifts were an important contribution to the life of Southwell diocese as Bishop Barry moved towards retirement.

They became even more important when his successor, Bishop Gordon Savage, was obliged to resign because of his involvement with a London night-club hostess. This was a difficult time for the diocese, especially for the clergy, and Brown's contribution to the restoration of morale and to preparing the way for a new bishop was widely praised. In 1966 he joined the Church of England Pensions' Board and two years later became a Church Commissioner.

After 17 years as an archdeacon, under three bishops, Brown felt the need for a less demanding ministry. He retired to Kent, where Canterbury diocese made good use of his extensive knowledge of antiquarian matters and expertise in church furnishings. He became vice-chairman of its advisory committee for the care of churches, and served on both the diocesan and the national committees concerned with the use of redundant churches.

His home at Walmer enabled him to renew his association with the Royal Marines at nearby Deal, where he was made an honorary member of the officers' mess and, from 1987 to 1996, was honorary chaplain to the School of Music. The regular chaplain was away when the IRA bombers struck, and Brown was immediately on the spot offering comfort and support.

Michael Brown is survived by his wife, Marie (nee Dawson), a widow whom he married in 1978, and by three stepsons.

He died on February 14.