|Posted by StephenRBeet on January 2, 2012 at 9:45 AM|
Rev. T.E.M. Barber
The fly continued its buzzing. Undaunted, it searched and scoured the car windscreen, intent on finding an exit through the glass and into the freedom of another idyllic summer’s day in a farmer’s field in Sidmouth. The Reverend T. E. M. Barber stretched out a hand, cupped his fingers and, with care and precision, guided the fly across the windscreen and out through the open side-window. The fly flew off without a hint of gratitude or even acknowledgement. The Vicar, sitting in the driver’s seat, passed no comment. Nor did I, sitting beside him. Yet this recollection would never leave me. In a simple, unremarked way, it seemed to encapsulate the essence of a far-from-simple, remarkable man.
What were the hallmarks of that brief incident on a Boys’ Club Camp in the 1970s? And what do they tell us about the man himself? First of all, I suppose, they indicate a man who was anything but run of the mill. To the rest of us, a fly is a nuisance. It lives to be squatted. (We’d exterminated several hundred of them on the canvas of our tents earlier that same morning. The Vapona fly-repellent hanging in the Officers’ tent was a clear warning to flies that they were not welcome here.) But to the Rev. Barber, that single, simple fly must have been another reminder of the wonder of God’s creation. A world where life is of infinite variety and all life is of value.
Even more critically, perhaps, is the fact that the incident passed without comment. “In the beginning was the Word.” And words were never wasted with the Vicar. They were used sparingly, but always to the utmost effect. A word of criticism from the Rev. Barber, only ever given with the greatest care and consideration, would cut deeper than the sharpest knife.
But it wasn’t only what he said which made him the most remarkable man you or I are ever likely to meet. It was what he did. His actions, his manners, his demeanour, his very being unceasingly reaffirmed what was of true value and meaning in life. Put simply, that was putting others before oneself. Or, in biblical terms, loving thy neighbour as thyself. In living for others, we beheld a man who was wholly himself. A one-off. Unique. His imprint, like the watermark in a ten-pound note, remains in all of us who were lucky enough to know him and to grow up under his care. His influence is still felt. His spirit shines on.