Andrew Shackleton died peacefully on the morning of 16th April after a long period of illness.
Andrew was All Hallows Representative on both Deanery and Diocesan Synods as well as being on PCC; was one of the musical group leading singing in our worship and was a much loved and respected figure in the church community. As a gay man he stood up for the rights of LGBT people and did much for the cause of equality in the church and beyond. Andrew has been an important figure at All Hallows and his death will be felt with deep sadness by everyone who knew him.
Andrew’s funeral was on Wednesday 25th April at All Hallows and, as would be expected, was very well attended. Below is the address that the Rev. Steve Smith made at the service:
Andrew Shackleton and his twin brother Julian (who died tragically at the age of 24) were born the sons of a Baptist minister and a teacher when the family were living in Ilkeston in Derbyshire, moving later to Barrow in Furness and from there to Didcot, with the boys aged around seven. From his earliest years, after hearing a recording of the voice of Kathleen Ferrier, classical music – and in particular the music of Schubert – was the great love of Andrew’s life. At age 17 Andrew went to Germany to study and he had a very happy time there learning the language – remaining in contact with the family he stayed with, for the rest of his life.
Andrew described himself and his brother as inseparable although both had their different issues; Julian was extrovert and rather obsessive and, whilst in Marion’s words Andrew was a jovial little boy who always knew his own mind and at that time was the stronger of the two, he later suffered from depression, as he himself put it, on account of his (then) repressed sexuality.
Unlike many youngsters Andrew’s faith grew stronger during his young adult life and at age 18 or 19 he was baptised into the Baptist Church in Cambridge both he and Julian having gone to University at there, Andrew to Downing College where he also sang in the choir, and Julian to Emmanuel. After university Andrew spent some time in northern France teaching and also trained as a librarian at Nene college, Northampton where he also sang in a local choir. By his own admission wouldn’t have made a very good librarian – although he felt he’d have been better at doing the job the way it had been done a century or so earlier so decided he wasn’t going to continue down that line.
Andrew’s brother and his father both died within seven months of each other, in 1978 and 1979.
In 1980 Andrew and Phil met at an LGCM conference and Andrew went into translation and freelance editing work here in Leeds. He and Phil became members of the congregation here at All Hallows in 1994, both in their different ways becoming hard-working and very well-respected members of the congregation. Also whilst in Leeds Andrew became a member of the Schubert Institute, and last year Andrew wrote two articles – one on ‘Animals in Schubert’s songs’ and one on the Leeds Schubert Day in November. Andrew also did the lay-out for the Schubertian magazine. At entirely the other end of the spectrum Andrew was a lifelong fan of the Archers and never missed an episode! In between these two ends of the spectrum Andrew was also active in Changing Attitude, The Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians, The Lone Twins Association and the Geographical Association. He also appeared in TV debates on sexuality, always ensuring that from his side of the argument the debate did not descend into anything aggressive.
Andrew served as the church’s representative on the Parochial Church Council; on both on the Deanery and Diocesan Synods; accompanied to their ‘signing on’ appointments Asylum Seekers who needed support; he sang with the Leeds Philharmonic Chorus, with Gay Abandon and with the Sacred Wing choir who kindly perform the annual carol concert here each Christmas – and of course Andrew’s mature bass voice was a welcome contribution in our worship here in this church . In all his time here, Andrew has been a much-loved and much-appreciated member of the church community and he is, and will be, sorely missed by all of us at All Hallows.
When Andrew and I were talking about his thoughts approaching death I asked him what he thought people might particularly remember him for. With characteristic candour he said that he’d never much cared for what people thought of him! – but with equally characteristic modesty he added that the most important thing he felt he had accomplished in life was helping people understand that being gay was all right. Many of us, of course, would argue that, important though that was and is, his accomplishments went far beyond that – for example when he was recovering from his own radical abdominal operation Andrew was an immense source of strength and support for a friend at church with personal support and advice on that person’s own stoma care.
Another time he said,
“I seem to have been born different; all through life learning to accept myself took a long time – towards the end of life I thank God that this has become no longer so difficult.”
Andrew’s death at such a young age has been tragic and hard to understand or accept. But we thank God for the gift of Andrew Shackleton; for all that he stood for; all that he meant to us; all that he gave to those who knew him – often at great internal, personal cost. We thank God for his faith – a faith that was very down-to-earth, very real, very ordinary – and was all the more powerful for that – a faith in the God of love who walked with him through this life and now welcomes him into the next. May he rest in peace – and rise in glory. Amen