Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Sad news of the death of Fred Kaan

At the party for my mother on Sunday I learnt that Fred Kaan was very ill. On Monday when we arrived in Geneva we learnt that he had died.
Along with the minister of my local congregation David Marsden, who also died earlier this year, Fred was a very inspiring influence to me as I groped my way towards candidating for the ministry. He took time to come and visit me for a whole morning when I was in my late teens and I can still recall very clearly - almost physically - that energising and Spirit-filled conversation. When he left I turned my favourite French songs up really loud on the stereo and just sang louder and louder.
Because of him I went to work in Berlin in the children's home at the Johannesstift and learnt German - one of his sons had worked there earlier. Because Fred translated the book I also read Bärbel von Wartenburg Potter's "We shall not hang our hearts on the willows". Because of Fred I also learnt that my heroes are not perfect people. When he left his first wife it was hard for some people to go on singing his hymns.
My ordination took place at around that time, more than 12 years after our initial conversation - while he was feeling rather at odds with the institutional church. He wrote me a wonderful letter with a great self portrait sketch and a promise to toast my health in Polish vodka. He also said that he wished me a career of ecumenical service, not one of glory but to know what it is to bear the burden of witness inside and outside the church. Until today I had completely forgotten that and I give deep felt thanks for it and for him taking my vocation and my languages seriously. He would like it I think that I tell a joke against him quite often when I show visitors around the ecumenical chapel in Geneva.
Rest in peace Fred. I shall toast you here in Crete with some Metaxa. May you rise in glory - the glory of service of course!

1 Comment:

janetlees said...

Yes we saw the notice in the Gaurdian and I remembered you knew him but forgot you were in Crete. It's good to hear this personal view of him - enjoy the rest of the week.