On 18 December 2020, the Revd William Raymond Shinn: Team Vicar in the Dunstable Team Ministry (1978 – 80), Vicar of Round Green, Luton (1980 – 88); aged 98.
The top notice above appeared in a recent Church Times, which led me to search the web and produced the boxed notice from the “Comet” a newspaper from the Stevenage, Hitchin area. I was initially shocked, then wondered why I should be shocked as I am no spring chicken, and I knew he was older than me – but I did not realise he was 12 years older.
I liked Bill Shinn. I arrived at Salisbury and Wells Theological College in the October of 1971 and joined an already existing group. We were all technically “older men” studying for the General Ordination Examination by the Essay Scheme. And, boy, did we write some essays. Most of us had not written an essay since doing “compositions” at school, and because we were such greenhorns, they employed a lady to take us through some basic grammar and answer the many questions we came up with as we realised more and more how little we knew.
Bill Shinn was of this group. I found out that he had been a Production Engineer in the motor tyre industry and that he had been with a party from the UK that went to Russia to assist in the establishment of such a factory there. He told us of the surveillance to which they were they were subject. He was a very nice man and something of a father figure who occasionally played on his age in amusing ways. He said to me once how much they had had to pay to buy a house to live in whilst at Salisbury, and contrasted this with what he and his wife had paid to buy their first home all those years before. The later was in hundreds of pounds, while the Salisbury house was in tens of thousands. “Wh -wh- wh – what is happening to us”, he said. He had a slight stammer, which impeded him not at all and actually made him a more attractive personality. He could use this age difference to the advantage of us all because he could play at being slow on the uptake. Often he would voice a question that was on many minds, but we were too shy to ask as we feared being embarrassed.
I recollect on one occasion the New Testament lecturer was waxing lyrical about “Eschatology”, and after some time Bill Shinn said, “W -w – w- -wait a bit. I haven’t got the faintest idea of what you are talking about. Just what is this E – es- esch – eschatology thing ?” The lecturer was bought up short and had to waffle for some minutes as he got his brain into gear. I am sure that he knew what it was, but it had been a long time since he had had to put the meaning into simple words. But it was good that this happened as it enabled more of us to chip in and clarify the issue for our selves too.
The only thing I don’t understand about the brief Church Times obituary notice is that we all left Salisbury at about Petertide of 1974, so there seems to be a four year gap in his biography.