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The Very Reverend David Leaning, 1936-2015

Distinguished old boy of Brigg Grammar School from 1947-1955 and speaker at the annual Briggensians’ Dinner in March 2007, former Dean of Southwell Minster, David Leaning, has died unexpected at the age of 79 years.

Educated at Keble College, Oxford, he was ordained in 1961.

David retired after 46 years serving in the Church of England’s Ministry in Gainsborough, Worsop in Nottinghamshire and Kington in Herefordshire. After 20 years in Parish Ministry he became Archdeacon of Newark in the Diocese of Southwell and then Dean of the Cathedral of Southwell, a position he held for 15 years.

At Southwell they encouraged artists and craftsmen to provide inspirational works of art in addition to their work maintaining the fabric of the (mainly) 12th and 13th century buildings. A new refectory and shop now provides hospitality for the many visitors during the year.

‘Time Travelling’ ~ a project for Junior School children brings 7,500 children into the Cathedral each year. For 25 years David was a Trustee of an Adventure Centre for young people in the Lake District and regularly he provided ‘Open Forums’ for Sixth Formers in his home whilst Dean at Southwell.

He was a School Governor of Worksop College for many years and is a Fellow of the Woodard Corporation; Woodard Schools form the largest group of Church of England schools in England and Wales. Of the forty schools in the United Kingdom that are currently part of the Corporation, twenty-three are owned directly by the Woodard Corporation.

In 2003, he was awarded an honorary degree by Nottingham Trent University for his work in the county.

He retired to Lincoln in 2006, where he was chaplain at St Mary Magdalene Church, before moving to Fishbourne, Sussex, about three years ago to be nearer his family. Rev. Leaning leaves a sister

There have been a very considerable number of tributes to David including these from former colleagues:

Message from Southwell Minster: Canon Nigel Coates, Acting Dean

All have expressed appreciation of a warm, compassionate and faithful priest. It is perhaps typical of David that his instructions made it clear that he did not want a special service in Southwell Minster that would draw attention to him.

To allow people to publicly express their gratitude for David’s friendship and service, the Minster community extended an open invitation to the following:

David Leaning
  1. Light a candle in the Pilgrims Chapel on the day of David’s funeral (8th September) and the day of his burial (9th September).

  2. The opportunity to offer a contribution towards something in memory of David, specifically related to a ministry that David was passionate about namely the retreat work of Sacrista Prebend and/or young people. This fund will be kept open until All Saintstide. Cheques payable to Southwell Cathedral Chapter c/o Minster Office ,Church Street, Southwell NG25 0HD (please mark on back of cheque DL)

  3. At 8pm on Monday 2nd November, the annual All Souls service will include specific remembrance of David alongside others.

All are most welcome to any of the above. Please do not hesitate to contact the Cathedral Clergy if we can help with further details.

Mindful of the outpouring of love and sadness at his death, books will be provided at the Minster where for a period of time up to his funeral, anyone will be able to come and write their own memory and cause of thanksgiving for David. These books will then be offered to his sister as a small token of our deep respect and affection

Rt Revd George Cassidy, a former Bishop of the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham, worked with Rev Leaning, and described him as a man of prayer.

He said: “He was a counsellor and confidant to many laity and clergy and was much sought after as a mentor and spiritual director”

David Leaning

“David was kind, generous and thoughtful and many people were recipients of prayer cards and bookmarks on the eve of a new venture or significant occasion in their lives.”

Rev Leaning was the inspiration behind major developments at the Minster, such as the original development of the refectory and shop in its present building, the education centre, and the unveiling of the new Great West Window.

During his time at the minster, Rev. Leaning oversaw developments such as the rectory and shop, the creation of the education and visitor centre, the unveiling of the great west window and the establishment of the Sacrista Prebend House as a centre for retreats and conferences.

“As a custodian of the wonderful Southwell Minster, he was scrupulous in his care and enhancement of the fabric (of the building) and was fastidious in the care of the liturgy and music.”

Mr Will Harrison, a former verger and lay clerk at Southwell said he was honoured to work for Rev. Leaning at Southwell and visited him in his retirement in Lincoln.

“He was an inspirational and energetic priest who exuded Godliness and compassion,” he said. “His ministry was consistent across every social and generational divide. “He had fabulous gifts in his ability to relate to anyone, no matter who they were.”

Reverend Richard Davey, priest at the parish of All Saints, St Mary and St Peter, in Nottingham city centre, worked with Rev. Leaning from 1999 to 2005

"He was a very caring man," he said. "He loved people and, despite being very busy, would always have people come to see him.

David Leaning

The Very Revd David Leaning during a restoration project at the Minster in 2006

"I think people will be very sad to hear of his passing. He was a caring, gentle and generous man."

Rev. Davey added: "He was keen to help young people out, and held discussion groups for sixth formers which a lot of young people would attend."

The Rt Rev Tony Porter, Bishop of Sherwood, said: "He was a man of exceptional warmth and wisdom. "Like many others, when I first met him he made me feel special”.

"He had that rare but important gift of listening with care. He loved God and he loved people."