Father Gary Gill (1944-2019): Pilgrim, Priest, Ecumenist

When I heard that a friend was suffering, I immediately thought of the late Father Gary Gill. He was a humble man who carried his cross and ministered to those in need.

I met Father Gary at a meeting of the Committee of the Society of Saint John Chrysostom (SSJC), in London, in 2006, when he was serving as the Society’s Secretary. Although we had come from very different worlds, I immediately sensed goodness in him and perceived the image of Christ through his priesthood and person. 

Gary Gill was born in Bournemouth, Hampshire. He worked for British Rail as a Shipping Clerk and as Personnel Education Officer, after qualifying as a teacher. From this honest, hard work, he acquired a lifelong interest in trains and the history of the London Underground. He was a school master for one year but decided it this was not his forte.

Gary spent the greater portion of his life in the Church of England and held Anglo-Catholic views. He discerned a calling to priesthood in the early 1980s and studied at Canterbury School of Ministry. In 1987 he was ordained a deacon and the following year a priest. As an Anglican, he ministered in Addlestone, Dover, and Birchington.

Gary was an authentic ecumenist, that is, a spiritual and theological but never a fashionable one. In his early childhood, he came into contact with Roman Catholicism while attending the Ursuline Convent School in Dover. As an Anglican priest he established ecumenical friendships in England and across the channel. Through contacts with two French priests, Gary forged a spiritual link between the See of Canterbury and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lille, in France. He also showed a great interest in Eastern Orthodoxy, which is how he became involved with SSJC.

Gary Gill was received into the Communion of the Universal Church on 24 November 1999. He was ordained a Catholic priest on the 9 December 2001 at the Church of St Paul in Dover, where he was then made assistant. Two years later, he was transferred to Plumstead Common Parish, where he served as Parish Priest for just over a year and a half. 

Father Gary had planned to become a Benedictine monk, but his health did not permit. Instead, he was received as a Benedictine Oblate and introduced other priests to that spiritual brotherhood. He served as missionary by offering friendship to those who were not of the faith or who had drifted away. 

When he was unable to minister alone in a parish, He was made assistant at St Anselm’s Parish, Tooting Bec. As health permitted, he also performed chaplaincy work at St Thomas’ and Guys Hospitals and assisted the Apostleship of the Sea. In 2012 he was moved to nursing care in London, and later in the Dover area, near the seaside which he loved, and where he spent his youth. Gary Gill was called to his Divine Maker at William Harvey Hospital, Ashford, on Saturday, 25 May 2019. 

Father Gary was a wonderful mimic, but would imitate only with respect. I will always remember his rendition of a certain ‘haughty prelate’ over luncheon. Several years later, I met a young seminarian to whom Father Gary had become a friend and mentor. The future priest was also a gifted mimic and made Father Gary present by imitating his voice. I always had the feeling that Gary Gill has continued to be present among his friends, in a spiritual way. He was much missed at the SSJC Committee, as was the late John Jacques, our Treasurer, and Alan Watson, who has passed to eternity this last year. 

To me, Gary Gill was the epitome of participating in Christ’s priesthood and ministering it to others. He was humble, kind, available to anyone, while all the while carrying his cross with love. He treated each person as a subject, not as an object to be used when advantageous, then discarded when no longer entertaining. Father Gary sought no advantage from those to whom he mirrored the Divine Countenance. He behaved not as a competitor but as a brother toward his fellow clergy. He had no time for “high-flyers” and gave his attention to those who needed support. The verse of the Mangificat was fulfilled in his person: “He hath cast the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly.” 

No moth or worm can devour the spiritual treasures which Gary Gill leaves to his family, his flock, friends, fellow priests, and members of the Society of St John Chrysostom. We pray for the repose of his soul and ask him to pray for us before God’s Presence. Continue to accompany us spiritually, good Father Gary, as we struggle to fulfil the particular callings entrusted to each of us, to imitate your good example, and share your love.