The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, has led tributes to the oldest serving priest in the Anglican Diocese of Leeds, Canon John Clayton, who died on Saturday 28 April, at the age of 106.
Canon Clayton was born in Leeds in 1911 and was an ordained minister for more than 80 years. He trained at Wells Theological College and was ordained at Wakefield Cathedral in 1935. His first curacy was at St John Dewsbury Moor. During his long ministry he served as a parish priest in churches across the current Anglican Diocese of Leeds until his retirement in 1976.
Yet, in retirement he continued to exercise an active ministry as a retired priest up until 2014 when he was 100, preaching and leading Holy Communion at his local church of St Giles, Bramhope. In 2005 he was a recipient of the Royal Maundy Money from the Queen at Bradford Cathedral .
Bishop Nick said, “In 2016, I had the privilege of helping Canon John Clayton celebrate his 105th birthday and 80 years of ministry at a special service in Bramhope.
“His dedication and longevity were remarkable. Up to the age of 100 he was still playing an active part in church services, and was particularly known for his pastoral concern and prayerful leading of worship.
“He will be remembered for his extraordinarily long and faithful ministry, for which we are very grateful.”
On his 105th birthday, Canon John Clayton reflected on his long ministry, he added: "I have loved working for the Church, and I’ve never been bored – people are very interesting, occasionally a little naughty and, more often than not, very lovable."
Canon John served at parishes across the diocese including St John the Baptist, Wakefield from 1938-41, St George Lupset until 1951, St James Bolton (Bradford) until 1965 and All Saints Otley where he was Vicar until 1976. He was made an Honorary Canon of Bradford Cathedral in 1963.
Looking back he said one of the things he was most proud of was being involved in the installation of the first cross on Otley Chevin. In 1968, wanting to raise awareness of the Easter message, a group of churches erected a 32ft high cross on Otley Chevin, and the tradition has continued ever since.
He added, “I was part of a group who helped get the project off the ground and I was privileged to preach the sermon on that first Easter. Some people didn’t think it would work, but more than 200 came the first time we hauled it up and, nearly 50 years later, they’re still going today, offering a sign of hope over the town each year. It shows that sometimes if you take a bit of a risk it pays off.”
At his request the funeral is to be conducted by the Revd Janice Smith at St Giles, Bramhope, on Thursday 17th May at 1.00pm, followed by committal at Lawnswood.