Memorial Service for Barry Dodd CBE, Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire
York Minster, Friday 20th July 2018; 11.30am
Sermon preached by the Dean of Ripon, The Very Rev John Dobson
Texts: Wisdom 3:1-3.5.9; John 14: 1-7
“The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.”
The beginning of our first reading – from the Wisdom of Solomon. So far, so good.
It goes on;
“In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster…”
Well, let us be clear. The going from us of Barry Dodd was a disaster. His death was a tragedy.
We gather in this great minster church, on holy ground where the people of this region have prayed for fourteen centuries – in good times and in bad, following tragedy. We gather under the window known as ‘The Heart of Yorkshire’. And we acknowledge that on that fateful day at the end of May, in that terrible tragedy, the heart of Yorkshire was struck an appalling blow.
“How many were sorry when he passed away,” – words on the back cover of the order of service. The answer to the implied question? Thousands – from all walks of life.
We struggle to make sense of it, even to accept that it has happened. “If only…” we still think. And the question “Why?” persists. Why such tragedy if God is good?
We all knew Barry in different ways, of course. We come with our own memories. Some of us were colleagues or business acquaintances. Others knew him through his work with charities, or the universities, or the military, or uniformed groups. Many of us, of course, came to admire him as Lord-Lieutenant – not least the civic communities, churches, and members of other faiths whom Barry came to admire so much.
We are all sorry. We have all lost something precious. And yet we also acknowledge that Frances, and those loved ones and friends nearest to Barry, have lost most. So it is, Frances, that in good part we come today to show you support. Our hearts go out to you in a generous tide of sympathy.
And we meet here where the Christian message of hope, of which we sang in our first hymn, has been proclaimed through the generations in countless situations.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled” we heard from our second reading. Easier said than done, we might think. Yet these words of Jesus Christ also come from a tragic situation. He is speaking to his disciples the night before his crucifixion. How many times has the question “Why?” been asked in relation to his death? And yet Jesus could say, “Believe in God, believe also in me… I am now going to prepare a place for you.”
Let none of us leave this ancient church today without pondering this claim. The tragedy of Barry’s death that we lament is real; it cannot be explained away. But real too, we believe, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For two thousand years the church has shared the good news and the hope that nothing that life can throw at us, no disaster, however tragic, is beyond the capacity of God to redeem. Even death is conquered.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me…” says Jesus.
Famously, it was John Donne, early in the 17th century who could write, (Holy Sonnet)
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me…”
“And soonest our best men with thee do go…”
But in a faithful, emphatic, hope-giving conclusion he asserts,
“One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”
It is in the hope and the confidence that we receive from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead that we can be true to the title of this service. It is one of thanksgiving in celebration.
Encouraged by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are able to thank God for his precious gift of Barry’s life.
In the tributes, we have heard much to celebrate. And we all do come with our own memories. We come with memories of how Barry’s life has been a blessing to our lives; and to businesses, charities and communities that are important to us.
We remember and celebrate how, as a successful yet self-effacing entrepreneur, Barry went out of his way to help those who were less fortunate. We celebrate his success with GSM. (Global Service and Manufacturing Group). And Barry’s passion for manufacturing, especially British manufacturing, and his efforts to help the young and less privileged to find employment and get on in business, is something that we thank God for today. We at Ripon Cathedral certainly remember him as a true friend and source of encouragement.
Today let us also celebrate the pleasure Barry had in life. I’m sure he was never happier than when helping Frances with the sheep. Especially at lambing time! Except, perhaps, when he was working on or driving one of his prized cars. Or the bus!
Yes, Barry’s death was tragic. His life was far from tragic.
Little wonder he was chosen to be Lord Lieutenant. It’s easy to say that now, of course. Four years ago Barry Dodd was regarded as an inspired choice to be Her Majesty’s senior representative for North Yorkshire.
Many of us will remember that first occasion here at the Minister. Gratitude was properly and justifiably expressed for the service of his predecessor, Lord Crathorne. After the worship, during the sort of reception they do so well here, standing in the North Transept, the new Lord-Lieutenant explained that, as a busy businessman, he would be fulfilling the role of Lord-Lieutenant rather differently. With the support of his very able Vice Lord-Lieutenant, he would be delegating more to his Deputy Lieutenants. Let us be honest, many eyebrows were raised!
And yet, within a few months it was clear to all that in Barry Dodd we had a great Lord-Lieutenant, one who was true to his word and who delivered on his promises; a faithful servant of Her Majesty who was prepared to work tirelessly for the good of the county and the country. This is the man, God’s welcome gift to us, God’s generous gift to North Yorkshire, for whom we give thanks and whose life we readily celebrate today.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.