Revd Norman Ryder 1933 -2018
Members of the New Church Historical Society will be saddened to hear about the death of Rev Norman Ryder, the founder of the Historical Society on the 28th of July 2018.
Norman was a uniquely talented, hardworking, scholarly individual with a prodigious memory for facts. If he didn’t know the answer to a question then he certainly knew where the answer could be found. He was keenly interested in history, particularly the past history of our church, and had a wide circle of friends and contacts within Europe, the USA and West Africa.
In the March issue of Lifeline 1998 Norman made the suggestion that a New Church Historical Society should be formed and asked people who might be interested to contact him. Norman formally circulated people who had shown interest in his suggestion in a typed news sheet the ‘Bulletin.’ Norman was certainly not the type of person to let the grass grow under his feet for in the second Bulletin dated June 1999 he had drawn up rules and a provisional constitution and had arranged two workshop periods at the meeting of the General Conference, one to approve the suggestions and formally inaugurate the Historical Society and the other session to give researchers an opportunity to present items that they themselves had been researching. Norman himself gave a presentation entitled ‘Swedenborg and the Royal Society of London.
At this Conference in July 1999 our present day New Church Historical Society was formally born and Norman was its first ‘Convenor.’ The duties of the Convenor were, “To arrange and conduct meetings of members and officers.” Norman also arranged for our NCHS to become a member of the Association of Denominational Historical Societies and Cognate Libraries. Ever practical he also opened a bank account to receive the first subscriptions!
The following year at the 1st annual meeting of the NCHS at High Leigh the minutes recorded that two ‘Bulletins’ and a ‘Journal’ should be produced each year. The first Journals were all typed up, printed off and spirally bound by Norman himself – a practical example of his industry, practicality and thrift. I was quite often amused by the little notes I used to receive written in his distinctive hand on all sorts of pieces of paper –recycling before it became popular!
Norman had a unique sense of humour – as funny as most of today’s stand –up comedians. Reading through one of his letters he was describing the contents of a forthcoming Bulletin as, ‘something old, something new, something borrowed but NOT SOMETHING BLUE!’
Norman continued as Convenor of the NCHS until 2010 when health reasons both for himself and also for his wife meant that he had to relinquish the role. However he was always on hand ready to assist with queries and advice. His practicality and wide ranging knowledge will be very sadly missed by us all.
Maeve Hawkins adds:
Some years ago I joined the Library & Archives committee of which Norman was the very excellent Chairman. We would usually arrive at Swedenborg House and find him already hard at work as his visit to London also gave him the opportunity to carry out further research for The Swedenborg Bibliography. The members of the Committee usually had items to deposit in the Collection and as each one was listed Norman would add long stories connected with the event or people involved. He could identify people in photographs when no-one else could. Enquiries were received and discussed and Norman seemed to know everyone and everything and not only in this country. With his amazing memory he would start his long stories adding much information and often directing us to where more could be found. The stories did take time to tell and it is true to say meetings he was unable attend were over rather sooner that when he was present, but how we missed him when he wasn’t there.
After Norman became ill and resigned as the Chairman he no longer received the Committee minutes but he had other ideas; he wanted to see them! He would then correct items and add more in his usual way, but now by letter. He was delighted that finally after many years of concern over the future of the Archives the Collection was transferred to the Swedenborg Society and could remain at Swedenborg House in safe hands. As we now work with the Swedenborg Society Librarian and his staff, passing on our knowledge, we will always feel Norman is still with us making sure we do our best.
The funeral was held at the modern, light and airy crematorium in Chester. Over two hundred people were there, showing their love for, and appreciation for all the work that Norman had accomplished in his lifetime both in the local community and in our own Church.
The service was conducted in a very dignified way by Rev John Elliott of London who had worked alongside Norman in translating the Writings of Swedenborg and researching material for various bibliographies. Stephen McNeilly from the Swedenborg Society related Norman’s work for that society over many years and painted a vivid picture of Norman as a meticulous, indefatigable, yet self- effacing person with his wonderful sense of humour.
John Elliott then related something of Norman’s early life which was not easy, as his father died when Norman was only twelve years of age. The young Norman had won a scholarship to the King Charles school at Kidderminster but was unable to continue his formal education beyond the age of sixteen but became an exceptional scholar, being able even to read Swedenborg’s hand-written Latin manuscripts.
Two hymns- ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ to the tune ‘ Brother James’ Air’ were sung and ‘Make me a ‘Channel of your Peace’ were.
A reception was held afterwards at a suite at the Cricket Club where people enjoyed meeting each and catching on past years
Our best wishes and kind thoughts go to wife Pamela and daughters Abigail and Deborah.
Brief report from Pauline