The Revd William Snelson ( Bill to all of us ) was a parish priest with an ecumenical heart and advocate of the Anglican Centre in Rome who died on 17th December 2020. He held two incumbencies in the Ripon Diocese and also in 1987 became Diocesan Ecumenical Officer when WYEC was set up. Following service as West Yorkshire County Ecumenical Officer from 1993, he became General Secretary of Churches Together in England from 1997-2008. After this, Bill served as Development Officer and later Communications Officer for the Anglican Centre in Rome for seven years from 2008-15, with much good humour, liveliness and practical wisdom. He used to the full his communication skills first learnt setting up a multi-faith advisory board when he was a parish priest in Bardsley and East Keswick, in North East Leeds. His entree into formal ecumenicism began when he became secretary of the newly formed Metropolitan Council of Churches, producing the first directory of all Leeds churches and ministers, and when establishing relationships between churches and Jewish communities in Leeds during the “Call to the North”. Rachel Sissons a former WYEC colleague speaks of treasuring many happy years, where Bills organisational skill and empathy was contributed in a warm atmosphere with a bit of good humour. His knowledge of the people and background to all the denominations was incredible, as was his interpretation of ecumenical work that other ecumenical officers refer too.


As Development Officer for the Anglican Centre in Rome he maintained efficient and meticulous records, often putting together and mailing out our Centro magazine to hundreds of supporters. He took on the difficult task of raising funds with a good level of success, according to Barry Nichols, our former Treasurer and Company Secretary.


He wrote perfect minutes for the Governors’ meetings he attended, which Barry Nichols found very helpful in his work. Memorable to lots of us, is the help he gave in the organisation, with others, of some fascinating Friends support visits, including Charterhouse in London and the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula with a special viewing of the tomb of St Thomas More. He is remembered with affection as a colleague of total dedication, delightful good humour, and being a reliable representative of the Anglican Centre. He was extremely generous with his time, putting in extra hours to ensure everything was done well. He has been supportive of the Centre’s work and personel, during different Director’s and staff members periods of office. There is much appreciation here of mutual working and the recognition of each others gifts in ongoing current and future work of the Centre’s development.


After the retirement of the Very Revd Canon David Richardson and before the appointment of Archbishop Sir David Moxon as Director, the Governors asked Bill to be Interim Director of the Anglican Centre, a role which Bill really enjoyed together with Beryl his wife. David Moxon, pays tribute to him in these words:


“Bill was one of those open hearted, big minded parish priests , who always kept the big picture in view while attending with great love and care to personal pastoral details ; a fine and delicate balance. In Bill this developed into an art form as it included the body of Christ as a whole , across the demarcations that history has chosen to draw amongst us. Bill worked lovingly and thoughtfully across the differences , preferring to minister to people exactly as he found them. I was one of those. He was also capable of considerable wit and humility which endeared him to many in the ecumenical world. The Anglican Centre in Rome owes some of its financial viability to him in his development role over a number of years; a most demanding challenge. Rest In Peace Bill. You were prepared to be what you proclaimed. You followed Christ whose servant you were, cheerfully, faithfully and hopefully. in Christ crucified and risen.”


Bill and Beryl, his wife, had moved to Knaresborough at retirement from Churches Together in England, where they continued to exercise their shared life-long ministry of hospitality and friendship which stretched effortlessly across denominations.The Revd Peter Whittaker, the former Chair of West Yorkshire Methodist District and former chairman of trustees of Churches Together in England, notes how Bill could look ahead, as he encouraged Pentecostal involvement in the ecumenical movement, the potential of the Millennium and the appropriate commemoration, learning and relevance of the Set All Free Project in recalling the abolition of the slave trade.


During their retirement in Knaresborough, Bill continued to support the work of the Centre. Support networks were set up with some inspiration, by James Thompson throughout the UK. Recognising my own active support of the Centre, from the time when Bishop John Flack became Director, Bill gave an invitation to me, to take the role of Regional Representative in Yorkshire. He and Beryl became two of the members of our eight member Regional support Group based in Ripon. As a member of this group he was able to contribute to discussion and planning from his wide knowledge and experience. He was a great practical help in formatting and distributing publicity for events.


Together we organised seminars and visits which included ecumenical friends including James Hawkey, Chair of the Uk Development Committee of the Anglican Centre, Stuart Burns, Ruth Beckett, Gregory Ryan and Callan Slipper. Together we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Anglican Centre at Ripon Cathedral and Ripley Castle and then the next year at Ampleforth Abbey and the stunning Benedictine nunnery, Stanbrook Abbey at Wass. We joined in celebrating the town of Knaresborough’s 800th anniversary of St Robert of Knaresborough which included a visit to St Robert’s cell. More recently, in 2019 we commemorated the 450th anniversary of the Rising of the North in 1569. Appreciative members of the family at Markenfield Hall near Ripon, where both Catholic and Anglican worship services continue to be held in rotation, invited us especially to commemorate the anniversary of the revolt of the Catholic Northern Earls in their unsuccessful attempt to depose Queen Elizabeth I and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. We were led in prayers in Ripon Cathedral and held a short vigil in the market square where many local supporters in 1569-70 suffered a merciless and tragic fate.


Continuing our groups ongoing support in 2020 during lockdown, Archbishop Ian Ernest, the Director of the Anglican Centre, led an online seminar on Pope Francis encyclical “ Fratelli tutti” which is possible to watch over YouTube.


One lasting ecumenical contribution Bill Snelson has made in his witness and in his thinking can be found in his 2006 book “Enriching Communion” He explored how the unity in Christ we now have the privilege in sharing can be enhanced, outside and beyond the eucharist, as well as within. With the eucharist, central in his life, he invites us to see unplumbed depths of communion, as we move forward being One Body, despite differences in tradition and the pain of not always being able to share fully alongside brothers and sisters. The eucharist he sees as a sacrament of unity, where eucharistic life is beyond as well as within the liturgy. This understanding of the gospel is inclusive, bringing in the sacramental living of those who may not have a formal eucharist in their tradition.He had a straightforward view that of course ecumenism made sense and should be practised more widely. Quite simply, he was a lovely man with the right gifts for the important jobs he did with modesty and grace. He helps us to be conscious of sharing a common faith in changing times, in a hungry world, in fellowship with all the heroes of faith from many backgrounds. Bill himself, says his aim being ”to do things ecumenically rather than ecumenical things”. For him the ecumenical journey has been central to living and finding grace in the gospel of Christ.


We stand alongside Beryl and her family, Clare and Matthew, and grandchildren Katy,Beth,Emma and Harry, as we give thanks for a rich and rewarding journey shared with Bill. We commend to God’s enduring love in Christ, both Bill, former colleagues and all those currently serving so well, formally and informally, in the Anglican Centre’s fraternal bond of unity. With thanks to all those who have sent in tributes and messages.



Revd John Bennett TSSF: Area Minister, Society of St Francis and Regional Representative, Ripon Support Group: The Anglican Centre, Rome



A note of the book for your reference: Enriching Communion, by Bill Snelson, £4.95 from CTE, 27 Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9HH 020 75298141 ISBN 1 874295 29 8 first published LONDON - 27 November 2006 - 519 words