Bishops and Archdeacons of The Church of England in Lancashire paid warm and loving tribute today to a popular East Lancashire clergyman who passed away at the weekend.
Father Terry Murnane, Vicar of St James’ Church Haslingden and St Thomas’ Musbury, had been ill following a stroke in September last year. His family - wife Cheryl and children Caitlin, 22; Kieran, 19; Lucy, 11 and Jayden 2 - are being comforted by family and friends as well as their church family.
Terry was larger-than-life and one of a kind. He fully embraced the Diocesan Vision 2026 to create Healthy Churches Transforming Communities, after being ordained as a Priest at Blackburn Cathedral in 2014.
Prior to his ordination Terry worked in the community sector as a project manager with particular emphasis on interfaith dialogue.
He also spent some time as a Business Executive but, speaking in 2014, he said: “I have sensed a calling to ordained ministry since I was young. Following a very interesting and full journey to date, I have now reached the point of fulfilling my heart's desire.”
Prior to his appointment at Haslingden and Musbury, Terry served his curacy at St Andrew’s, St Mary Magdalen’s and St Peter’s Churches in Accrington and was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the first of 50 new congregations to be ‘planted’ as part of Vision 2026, which was based at St Nicholas’ Church of England Primary School in Accrington.
In achieving this milestone he worked closely with his incumbent Father Laurence Carson-Featham.
Speaking at the time, Terry embodied the purpose of the new church community saying: “We are very excited to be the ‘first of the 50’. A church is the people who meet in the building, not the building itself, and so this excellent local school is an ideal home for us.
“We are moving forward with confidence and, with God’s guidance, beginning a new chapter in the life of the church community here in Accrington.”
Terry had a passion for sharing the Gospel; something that was obvious at the time of his ordination when he said: “My vision is one of a church which is rooted in the proclamation and living out of Gospel values and one which reaches out to everyone, particularly those on the margins of society.”
Terry also called on his previous interfaith experience, supporting the Bishop of Burnley, Rt Rev Philip North, on various initiatives; such as when an invitation was extended at Easter 2016 to local Muslim leaders for discussions at Bishop Philip’s home in Burnley.
Speaking today, Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn spoke of his sadness saying: “The way that Terry and his family have managed themselves through the past very challenging eight months has been exemplary.
“For so strong a person with so much to give in terms of love, support and Christian witness, there is a very real sadness at what has happened, but at the same time we hold on to the hope of resurrection, knowing that Terry's faith in Jesus Christ was clear and sure. We give thanks to God for him and pray for his family to know peace and comfort in their sorrow.
Meanwhile Bishop Philip said: “Father Terry was not just a person, he was an event. With his loud, booming voice, his tireless energy for ministry, his constant flow of ideas and his boundless capacity for love and friendship, he was someone who made a huge impact on everyone around him. It was typical of him that when he saw the Vision 2026 goal of starting 50 new congregations, he said, 'we'll do that' and together with Fr Laurence launched the first of the 50 just a few weeks later.
“In his ministry in Haslingden and Musbury, Terry achieved more in a year than many would manage in a decade and brought evangelistic zeal and strategic direction to the Parishes. He still made time to be such a wonderful husband to Cheryl and father to Caitlin, Kieran, Lucy and Jayden.
“It was a complete privilege to serve Terry as his Bishop and I felt he ministered to me almost as much as I ministered to him. We rejoice now that his huge voice can be employed once again to sing the praises of the Risen Saviour in whom he placed such total and complete trust. He was a wonderful priest and a fantastic friend. He will be missed beyond words.”
The Archdeacon of Blackburn, The Venerable Mark Ireland said: “Terry was such a gifted and energetic priest - a spiritual dynamo. The fortitude and faith with which he and the family have borne his desperate incapacity over the last eight months has been an inspiration to me.
“He had truly entered into the fellowship of sharing Christ’s sufferings, and now at last he has come to share in the release and joy of Christ’s resurrection. My thoughts and prayers are with Cheryl and the family at this time.”
And the Archdeacon of Lancaster, the Venerable Michael Everitt added his voice saying: “I had the privilege of leading Terry’s ordination retreat. His depth of practical holiness shone out. His commitment to the gospel and God’s people in Lancashire was inspirational.”
Meanwhile tributes were also paid today by fellow clergy with whom Terry worked closely in his local parishes.
Father Laurence Carson-Featham, Terry’s first incumbent as a curate, said: “While his ideal of Christian and priestly ministry tended towards the vulnerable, the marginalised, the unchurched, Father Terry, sacrificially and lovingly supported by his dear wife Cheryl and family, reached out to all in the communities to whom he ministered and beyond.
“In the four church schools we serve, for example, Father Terry’s input and impact were very much felt and he will be remembered by pupils, students and staff for a long time to come.
“Father Terry loved people, he loved us, he loved God; and we will continue to love and pray for him, our dear friend and priest.”
Speaking on behalf of his current parishes, the Associate Priest of St James’ Church, Haslingden and St Thomas’ Musbury, Father David Stephenson, added: “The parishes of Musbury and Haslingden are devastated at the news of Father Terry's death. Having made such a positive, lively, energetic and bold impression on the parish at all levels the future is hard to imagine without him as a key figure in it.
“During my three months here I have heard of so many encounters in which Father Terry demonstrated his outstanding care and love for his flock. Father Terry was passionate about work with schools, about meeting people where they were and about bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ.
“Father Terry was a friend to so many, myself included, and a fine example of a parish priest. He helped to change lives for the better and we now try to rejoice, in our sadness, as he is transformed in the love of God."