Canon John Foskett obituary

Other lives: clergyman and pastoral counsellor

My father, John Foskett, who has died aged 78, was a clergyman and pastoral counsellor who worked primarily in churches and hospitals but also in other environments.

He was born in Croydon, south London, the son of Mary (nee Challis), an elocution teacher, and Herbert, a corn factor. He went to Tonbridge school, where, because of his dyslexia, he was taken under the wing of the school chaplain. This association was instrumental in his decision to study theology. He graduated from St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, in 1962.

John went on to Chichester Theological College and was ordained in 1964, becoming a curate at St John the Baptist in Old Malden, Surrey, and then priest in charge at St John the Evangelist, Kingston upon Thames. Alongside his theological studies he trained in counselling with Richmond Fellowship. This led him to become the first full-time chaplain of the Maudsley and Bethlem Royal hospitals in London in 1975, a job he did for 18 years before he retired on health grounds. He was also an honorary canon of Southwark Cathedral (1988-94), and went on to work in private practice, supervising, teaching and giving counselling.

He was a pioneer in clinical pastoral education, teaching both clergy and mental health professionals about pastoral counselling for those with religious or spiritual views or conflicts. For much of his professional life he fought to give a voice and structural power to people with mental health needs. He had the ability to sit and talk with just about anybody and listen and respond with wisdom and compassion.

His writing included two books: Meaning in Madness (1984), about mental health, religion and chaplaincy, and Helping the Helpers (1988), with David Lyall, about supervision for pastoral counsellors. He also wrote articles for therapeutic journals, including the journals of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and of the Association of Pastoral Care and Counselling, which he helped set up.

He had many passions besides his work, including cricket and rugby, good food, the countryside and fun times with family and friends. He belonged to a couple of local campaigning groups in Dorchester, organising talks, going to functions attended by the local MP, Oliver Letwin, to raise issues of climate change with him, writing letters and being active on the Dorset churches group that campaigns for its buildings to function more ecologically.

His health had been declining slowly for over a decade, as a consequence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which began in 1987.

He married Mary, a teacher and dietitian, in 1964, having met her at Cambridge University in 1961. She survives him, as do his children, Andrew, Sam, Naomi and me, and his grandchildren, Luke, Max, Wesley, Phoebe and Sullivan.

Tim Foskett

The GuardianTramp

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