The University’s chaplain Reverend Prebendary Geoffrey Wynne retires this summer after 44 years of service – believed to be a national record. Staff and students said a fond farewell at a special lunch held in his honour.
In 1979 he instigated an appeal to build an interdenominational Chaplaincy Centre on Wolverhampton City Campus. After many years of public fundraising, over £100,000 was raised to build what is now The Faiths Centre, well-used for pastoral care, counselling, social activities, teaching and worship.
He has also organised the University’s annual carol service at St Peter’s Church which appeals to everyone, regardless of faith, and has done much work in Wolverhampton to foster multi-cultural harmony.
Last year, he received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University for his dedicated service to the spiritual, social and welfare needs of staff and students.
Here, he recounts some fond memories of his career and what he will miss most about University life.
My highlights have been seeing students grow and being a part of that. Feeling that I’ve made a difference to staff and students – and even conducting some marriage services for them because many people have met their partners through the chaplaincy. I have also enjoyed lecturing, delivering a degree in Applied Theology for 10 years.
When I was 17 and told my mother that I wanted to be ordained, she told me: ‘I know, you said that when you were three-years old’.
I studied at King’s College in London and helped Franciscan brothers who were working with homeless people in the East End. At one point, we were in a derelict house at 3am, surrounded by hostile drunks, with one man waving a broken bottle at us. I felt very vulnerable but when he saw the Anglican Franciscan in his habit he said ‘Sorry, Father. Now I know what you’re all about’. I’ve worn my dog collar ever since.
I later went to the London School of Economics to do social policy – I wanted to be a good parish priest. I did a three-month placement in Gorbals in Glasgow. It was a very deprived area and when the taxi driver dropped me off he asked if he should wait. I worked with youth clubs and gangs and it was challenging but the people took me to their hearts and I felt very safe.
The weekends away are always memorable experiences. We had a number of famous retreat conductors including Archbishop Michael Ramsey, whose addresses on transfiguration were incredible – he filled the room with his quiet voice - and Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury.
When I leave I will miss the people the most. When I get up in the morning, I find myself wanting to get in to the University; I get such a buzz. Running throughout the whole of my ministry has been a certain quiet joy, which brings chuckles so often.
I will be spending more time with family – my wife Gaynor, son Andrew, daughter-in-law Sarah and two grandchildren Charles and Lydia. I owe so much to Gaynor; she has been so supportive over the years. Living on site, she has dealt with students when I haven’t been there and has done a lot of unseen work.
I also enjoy caravanning and gardening – simple pleasures. After about three months I plan to spend some time helping in parishes.
If I had an opportunity, and couldn’t do theology, I would concentrate on philosophy. Also, I’d love to do research on religion as a form of intervention in mental health.
I admire the current Archbishop of Canterbury who I have worked closely with on various committees. He is so humble, yet so brilliant and so kind.
We have something so precious in this University which comes from the devotion and integrity of staff. We have a tradition of being a caring university and that has been built up over many years; we change people’s lives for the better. The whole country is facing difficult times and we need to focus on the good things.