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Tributes paid to north Suffolk clergyman

PUBLISHED: 07:34 27 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:38 05 July 2010

Rev Roger Kent, right, meeting Pope John Paul II during his time in Prague.

Rev Roger Kent, right, meeting Pope John Paul II during his time in Prague.

TOUCHING tributes have this week been paid to a much-loved clergyman who died as he worked at the Somerleyton rectory.

Family, friends, colleagues and parishioners in villages to the north of Lowestoft admitted to being "stunned" as they expressed "disbelief, shock and sadness" following the sudden death of the rector of Somerleyton, Rev Roger Kent.

TOUCHING tributes have this week been paid to a much-loved clergyman who died as he worked at the Somerleyton rectory.

Family, friends, colleagues and parishioners in villages to the north of Lowestoft admitted to being “stunned” as they expressed “disbelief, shock and sadness” following the sudden death of the rector of Somerleyton, Rev Roger Kent.

52-year-old Mr Kent died last Thursday, less than two weeks after officiating at the wedding of Lord Somerleyton's son and heir, the Honorable Hugh Crossley, to Lara Bailey.

Still coming to terms with his unexpected death this week, friends and colleagues paid tribute to a “wise and valued” clergyman, who had been working at his computer when it is believed he suffered a massive heart attack.

His mother, Mary Kent, who lives at Bungay where Roger and his three brothers spent much of their young years, spoke of the many cards and messages of sympathy she had received - which were a testament to her youngest son's popularity and the caring way he went about his work.

Having been rector, since 2004, of the benefice comprising the parishes of Ashby, Blundeston with Flixton, Fritton, Herringfleet, Lound and Somerleyton, one churchwarden in the group spoke of “the loss of a gentle and caring priest,” and there were many others in similar vein from those who knew him over a wide area.

Mrs Kent said she had enjoyed a family lunch with him last month to mark her 87th birthday, and the Sunday before his death had accompanied him to morning service at Lound Church.

Mr Kent, a bachelor, was born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1956 when his father, the late William Kent, was working there. His father was originally from Czechoslovakia and when Mr Kent was a year old, the family moved to Gorleston.

He moved to Bungay at the age of 10 when the family moved there, and went to St Faith's School in Cambridge, then Gresham's School, Holt, before studying theology at the University of Kent. He did his theological training at St Stephen's House, Oxford.

As a boy in Bungay he went to church with his parents and his mother said from an early age he had talked about going into the church.

He was ordained as a deacon at St Edmundsbury Cathedral at Bury St Edmunds in 1982 and then went to All Hallows Church in Ipswich as a curate. The following year, and became a curate at Poplars in London for two years before becoming Vicar at three churches in Kent, based at Newington.

Later, from 1995-99, Mr Kent spent four years in Prague as Anglican chaplain to the Czech Republic, based at St Clement's Church. While there he met the Queen, and also the late Pope John Paul II, as well as governmental heads from European Union countries.

On his return to the United Kingdom in 1999, he spent time studying the teaching of English to foreigners at a language school in Norwich. Later he went north to become Vicar at Cullercoats, near Newcastle, before returning to Suffolk in 2004 to take up his post at Somerleyton.

He particularly liked working with children, and he was a governor at Somerleyton School. He enjoyed swimming, and did a sponsored swim to help raise funds for repairs to the church tower, and he as also a canoeing instructor.

Speaking this week, his colleague in the group, honorary curate the Rev Leslie Hobbs, said: “He was well regarded within the parishes, where the feeling of loss is palpable. He had a facility for creating a sense of worship at church services.

“He had involved himself to a considerable degree in the life of primary schools at Blundeston and Somerleyton and already many people have spoken of how much they liked and respected him.”

The Bishop of Thetford, the Rt Rev David Atkinson, said: “We were all deeply saddened by the news of Roger's sudden and unexpected death. He has been a wise pastor, a valued colleague and a good friend to many people in the Somerleyton group of parishes and more widely, and we will miss him very much.”

Echoing those sentiments, The Journal's correspondent for Blundeston, Iris Mayes, said: “Rev Roger Kent had been with us almost five years and we had grown to love and rely upon him. We are extremely grateful that we also have Rev Leslie Hobbs within the Somerleyton Group and will be doing all we can to help him during the coming interregnum.”

The funeral service for Mr Kent will take place at St John the Baptist Church, Lound on Monday, March 9, at 10am. The Rev Leslie Hobbs, will take the service and a life-long friend from theological college, the Rev Professor Peter Galloway now at Savoy Chapel, part of the Duchy of Lancaster, will give the address. This will be followed by burial in the churchyard.

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