The Reverend Hilary Blancharde, who was the assistant priest at Holy Trinity Church, Horfield in Bristol, has sadly died after a year’s illness with cancer.
She was 74 years of age and in her thirteenth year as a priest in God’s holy church. Hilary was a wife; mother; grandmother; great-grandmother; teacher; missionary; deacon and priest. Those were the roles in which many different people knew and loved her. Those roles show how much she meant to many people – not only her family, but also the many people she “mothered” over the years in one way or another.
Mother Hilary had spent over twenty years as a missionary with the oldest of Anglican missionary societies – USPG, the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. She worked with some of the poorest people in communities in South Africa and India; this gave her a practical understanding of the needs of people in desperate situations across the world. The need, she recognised as the highest priority of all, was the need people have of human dignity. Hilary took all people seriously and always saw the good in everyone she encountered. Mother Hilary had that wonderful gift of attentiveness and had the gift of making anyone she was talking to feel that, at that particular moment, they were the most important person to her in the whole world.
She was a passionate campaigner for social justice, believing that all people should be listened to and those who have no public voice should be given one. That was what the church - Hilary served as an ordained minister for thirteen years - was for, because it was what Jesus did and then commanded us to do the same. Mother Hilary was known and respected for her compassion and practical wisdom by all, especially the homeless and distressed who come through the doors of Holy Trinity, many, because they knew that was where they could find her. Many knew of Hilary’s compassion through her funeral ministry to families all over Bristol; she was gifted in this form of ministry, so much so that she managed to turn an urban, city ministry into a village one: she knew so many people, their families and their pastoral histories across the whole city as though it was a much smaller place.
Mother Hilary was a passionate Anglo-Catholic Christian, of the liberal and inclusive type, and enjoyed the traditional, well-ordered liturgy of the Mass -the more candles and incense, the better! She was especially pleased to be admitted to the Anglican order of the Society of Catholic Priests (which supports and affirms women and men as deacons, priests and bishops of the Anglican church in the Catholic tradition). She was admitted via a special service on the Zoom platform, after she had to stand down from public ministry owing to the frailty caused by her illness. The Rector General made this permissible to give Hilary pastoral support and to affirm her priestly ministry as she came to terms with her illness.
Hilary was a wonderful priestly colleague - nothing shocked her; nothing surprised her; but everyone and everything was always a cause of joy for her. She will be very much missed. May she rest in peace. Amen.
The Revd Canon David McGladdery, SCP – Rector of Holy Trinity, Horfield.