Death of Richard Wood, former Anglican suffragan bishop of Namibia
Richard Wood, former Anglican bishop-suffragan of Namibia, died on 9 October 2008 at his home at Itchen Abbas, Hampshire, England.
Richard was ordained as an Anglican priest at Winchester Cathedral, and served for several years in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.
On the death of his wife he was interested in the possibility of some form of monastic life, and on the suggestion of the Bishop of Grahamstown wrote to the Anglican Bishop of Damaraland, Colin Winter, to ask if he could serve ion the desert diocese in Namibia, which he subsequently did.
I was then living in Namibia, but at the time Richard arrived was on a holiday travelling round South Africa with friends David de Beer and Hiskia Uanivi. We stopped at Grahamstown, and visited the Anglican Club at Rhodes University where we met Richard’s daughter Irene, then a student. “He’s a super guy”, she told us, and so it proved when we got back to Namibia and met him for the first time.
He was based at Keetmanshoop, which had not had a resident Anglican priest for many years, and travelled about in a secondhand Volkswagen Kombi he had bought. When he visited Windhoek he usually stayed with us in our commune, the Community of St Simon the Zealot, and amazed us with his ability to concoct delicious salads out of the most unlikely-seeming ingredients.
After a couple of years of doing this he decided to go to the UK to look at various Anglican religious communities there to get ideas for forming such a community in Namibia. On the same plane with him was Cathy Roark, a young American who had spent a year in the diocese as a youth worker. She accompanied him on a visit to one religious community, and they decided to get married. Richard wrote to Bishop Winter with the bad news that he would not be establishing a celibate religious community in Namibia, but with the good news that he had found one other person to take life vows with him.
Soon after that Bishop Winter was deported from Namibia. Richard and Cathy Wood returned to Namibia, and when the Anglican diocese decided that it did not want Bishop Winter to resign, but to continue as bishop-in-exile, Richard Wood was elected as suffragan bishop, and served there until he himself was deported by the South African government, which then controlled Namibia, a couple of years later.
After being deported Richard and Cathy, and their daughters Naomi and Rachel, lived in England, spending several years at Hull, and then retired to Itchen Abbas in Hampshire. In 2005 we had the opportunity of travelling to the UK on holiday, the first time I had been there for nearly 40 years, and we drove straight from London airport to Itchen Abbas to see Richard and Cathy, and had the bonus of seeing their daughter Rachel, with her husband and baby son (who was about the same age she had been when we had last seen her).
In his latter years Richard became somewhat disillusioned with and estranged from the institutional church, and especially with its failure to denounce Tony Blair’s warmongering.
This is a personal memoir; a proper obituary is available at The Namibian.