RIP Father Edward Houghton
Father Edward, who was born in Preston, was the assistant priest at Our Lady of Grace and St Edward in Chiswick. He'd only been with us for about a year but we knew he was someone very special. For one thing, Father Edward was just so sweet. He was a shy, unassuming man, quietly spoken and very gentle.
The other thing is that Father Edward, who used to teach English and RE at St Charles Sixth Form College in Ladbroke Grove, was very bright. Priests are usually learned men but I don't think I've ever heard more intellectually substantial homilies than the ones he would give. And the newsletters he would write were equally stimulating. One he wrote not long ago - I wish I'd kept it - explored the theme of work but what it was really about was alienation and how humans are frequently alienated from the work they do, which he contrasted with the Christian notion of work as freely given and amply rewarded.
Father Edward Houghton was a lifelong socialist and a Labour man to his marrow, though he was dispirited at the rightward direction the party was taking. Like so many of us he was deeply concerned about the rise of fascism in this country. But Father Edward was an inately charitable man; sections of the white working class were being tempted by fascists because Labour had let them down, he insisted. In truth, he was right about that.
Father Edward Houghton was kind, gentle and self-effacing but he also had guts. In December last year, distressed by Israel's invasion of Gaza and the awful toll of fatalities resulting from it and infuriated by the BBC's disgraceful censorship of the DEC appeal he put a notice in the parish newsletter requesting donations to the DEC for Gaza. There were some who didn't approve of this, complaining that Father Edward was "imposing" his politics on the parish. Stuff and nonsense. Father Edward was tender-hearted and courageous. He stuck a note up on the church door telling parishioners that if any of us wanted to go on the Gaza demo to join him at 11.30 on the day and he'd take a party of us up to Central London to protest the Israeli government's actions.
Justice 'n' peace types are sometimes sniggered at for their ostentatious goody-goodiness and overwheening political-correctness but Father Edward Houghton was nothing like that. He just was justice and peace and embued those values but without any kind of showing-off or priggishness. He couldn't help being politically engaged because his character was the opposite of insular. Rather he was outward-looking, a natural internationationalist and political leftwinger. But this shy and charming northerner was also orthodox in his faith and deeply committed to his priestly ministry.
The parish of Our Lady of Grace and St Edward is in mourning. We have lost a man of God and a true pastor. Our thoughts and prayers are with his brothers and sisters.
Requiescat in pace.