+ Protopresbyter Alban Barter
1927 – 2009
On Monday, 2nd February 2009, Protopresbyter Alban Barter, Priest Emeritus of the Orthodox Parish of Saint Barbara in Chester, reposed in the Lord.
As a student at Cambridge, Stanley Roy Barter studied law. Though this fitted him for a wide choice of professional opportunities he was led to become a district magistrate in Uganda. With his wife, Barbara, they settled into the sort of comfortable life open to colonial civil servants. All went well even after the end of colonial rule and the rise of Idi Amin, whom Roy Barter was to describe as a cultured and witty man; so long as you didn’t look at the contents of his refrigerator!
Roy rose to become Chief Magistrate during Amin’s rule, however, life became uncomfortable as the country destabilised and with five young children it was felt to be time to return to the UK and home was made in Ruthin in North Wales. Once back in Britain, Roy’s legal background drew him into the specialised world of the Coroner’s Court and he rose to become Chief Coroner for the City of Liverpool. There he would be responsible for ruling on many important and difficult cases, including the Jamie Bulger case and the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital body-parts scandal. He retired from active service some ten years ago.
Roy Barter was raised in the Church of England and his faith meant a great deal to him wherever he was and this faith brought a great deal of compassion into his rulings in the Coroner’s Court. At some point after his return to England, Roy and Barbara, herself a devout Roman Catholic, encountered Father Barnabas Burton, of blessed memory. This encounter led to a growing interest in Orthodox Christianity and they were to be seen frequently at the hermitage at New Mills. Inevitably, they sought to be received into the Orthodox Church and were duly Chrismated at the Hermitage. In 1984 Roy was ordained to the Holy Diaconate by the late Bishop Irenaeus in Birmingham and received the name Aristobulos.
By the middle of the 1980’s, it was clear that there was a growing interest in Orthodoxy amongst the local English and Welsh folk and Father Barnabas was encouraged to begin serving Divine Liturgy in Chester on a monthly basis ably assisted by Deacon Aristobulos in the redundant church dedicated to Saint Barnabas. The new community was dedicated to the honour of Saint Barbara the Great Martyr and the first Liturgy was celebrated on 15th December 1985. All this was a considerable strain on Deacon Aristobulos for he had to travel from his home in Ruthin to collect Father Barnabas at New Mills and take him all the way to Chester; and then undertake the reverse journey after the Liturgy – somewhat over 200 miles; such is the pioneering spirit of our Orthodox faithful. It was clear that this state of affairs could not continue for long and Deacon Aristobulos was presented to the then Archbishop Methodios for ordination to the priesthood. This took place on Palm Sunday 30th March 1986 at Agia Sophia in London and his name was changed back to Alban (his name at Chrismation).. Father Alban took full charge of the parish with the support of Archimandrite Barnabas. At the beginning of 1987 he was raised to the honour of the Protopresbyterate.
The dilapidated state of Saint Barnabas Church led to the disused cemetery chapel in Handbridge being acquired for Orthodox worship and the parish settled in there in the June of 1987. In the meantime, Father Alban had been instrumental in supporting the new community developing in Shrewsbury and dedicated to the Holy Fathers of Nicea while also taking time to travel to Llanelli to give support to the Orthodox living in the surrounding area.
Following Presbytera Barbara’s death in 1997, Father Alban took a back seat in parish affairs, content to assist where necessary and it is clear that he never really recovered from the loss of his beloved Barbara. Father Pancratios assumed the role of parish priest while Father Alban came and went as he felt able. In his last years he lived quietly at home visiting family and friends as it pleased him and weather permitted, occasionally travelling to London to spend a few days at his club.
Father Alban was a Knight of the Orthodox Order of Hospitallers (GCOH) and was awarded the MBE in recognition of his work as a coroner.
He was present at the Divine Liturgy just before the Feast of the Nativity and spent Christmas with family. In the middle of January he took a fall on ice at his home and was admitted to Glan Clwyd Hospital where he developed pneumonia. There he seemed to be improving and looked fitter than he had for a long while. He was looking forward to going home, sadly, it was not to be for while in hospital he apparently suffered a series of mini strokes, possibly as a result of his fall. A few moments before his death, he was chatting with members of the nursing staff but slipped quietly away without any of the staff realising that he was gone.
A larger than life character, quick with a kind word to all he met, he will be greatly missed by family, friends and parishioners, and not least by this unworthy priest.
Protopresbyter Alban Barter departed to the Lord at around 5pm on the Feast of the Entry of Our Lord into the Temple. http://www.thyateira.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=473&Itemid=5