Statement by The Rt Revd Dr Paul Colton in response to the death of The Rt Revd Dr Samuel G. Poyntz
The Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton, Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork has made the following statement in response to the news of the death of a former Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, the Right Reverend Dr Samuel Poyntz. Bishop Poyntz, who died on Saturday last (18th February) was Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross for nine years, from September 1978 to 1987, when he was translated to the Diocese of Connor.
‘Although it is 30 years since Bishop Sam Poyntz left Cork, Cloyne and Ross to become Bishop of Connor, within the small community that is the Church of Ireland, contact with him and his wife Noreen has been regular and deep friendship has endured between them and many in this Diocese. In recent years, they both returned to visit the Diocese for a number of significant occasions including the 250th anniversary of Kingston College, the official opening of the new Ashton School, and the retirement of our long serving Diocesan Secretary, Wilfred Baker.
‘More than that, even though his episcopate in this Diocese was reasonably short – just under 9 years – Bishop Poyntz’s influence has endured, and his legacy is still felt and appreciated by many. Even today, many of the characteristic phrases he used are referred to and repeated affectionately.
‘My wife and I were teenagers when he became our bishop and our story of knowing him is not untypical. Sam Poyntz influenced those formative years greatly, and encouraged us, not only in the life of the Church of Ireland, but also in supporting our education and chosen careers. Like other clergy from the Diocese (including my own contemporaries, Canon Robert Howard and Canon Nigel Baylor) he sponsored me for ordination training. He made great efforts to nurture vocations in the Diocese, and to keep in touch over the years with those who responded.
‘Many have deeply personal memories and we are no exception. When Susan and I married in Cork in 1986 he presided at the celebration of the Eucharist, and he and Noreen invited us to the gardens of the Bishop’s Palace to have the photographs taken. By the time he arrived in Connor Diocese I was working at Belfast Cathedral and also as a domestic chaplain to his predecessor. He continued that appointment and involved me in the arrangement of, and support for, a number of reconciliation and peace–making initiatives in those difficult days in Northern Ireland.
‘Bishop Poyntz was an innovator with a strong view of the role of the Church of Ireland. He had clear ideas of how the Church should keep pace with change, especially with international developments, social issues, and he was clear that it should take its place both in ecumenical dialogue and the concerns of the wider Anglican Communion. From a strongly Church of Ireland perspective, he himself engaged with all of those matters locally, nationally and internationally. He created opportunities in Cork for encounter with those issues, including hosting a meeting of the British Council of Churches (as it then was) and a visit to the Diocese by the Archbishop of York of the day, the Most Reverend Stuart Blanch. Bishop Poyntz was energetic and pragmatic. He was decisive and forthright in his views. He was a strong supporter of church music, and particularly of the development of the choir at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork.
‘Many did not realise how down to earth he was. I recall well when I was a student at the Church of Ireland Theological College how he arrived to visit us announced. On one such occasion, I saw his car pulling up and went down to meet him: wrong thing to do! “Should you not be in your study writing an essay?” he said. But then he came to the room, sat on the bed among us; “Put on the kettle. Have you any biscuits? Now! How are things going?” he asked. When he departed he also left a cheque behind for practical support. On other occasions there were gifts of books and core academic texts, or a cheque to buy a decent suit for ordination.
‘In Cork, Cloyne and Ross, in the late 1970s and 1980s he arrived with a flurry of enthusiasm after the long, steady, and pastoral episcopate of Bishop Gordon Perdue, a tenure which was no less innovative in its own ways. Notably, Bishop Poyntz presided over the complete refurbishment of the Diocesan Office buildings at Cove Street, the relocation and construction of the first phases of Lapp’s Court (a sheltered housing complex), the consecration of the Chapel of Christ the Healer at the Regional Hospital (now Cork University Hospital), and major remedial works at Kingston College (another housing charity within the Diocese). Two, among many, ecumenical initiatives are worthy of note. First, as President of ICICYMA (the Incorporated Church of Ireland Cork Young Men’s Association) at Garryduff Sports Centre, he led the club to open its membership to people of all religious outlooks enabling it to become the club that it is today. Second, before he left for Connor he was involved in the dialogue which led to the amalgamation of two religious–run voluntary hospitals, the Victoria Hospital and the South Infirmary, now the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Cork. In its time this was a pioneering ecumenical step.
‘He was ahead of his time in many ways. I remember well how, in his retiring remarks at his last meeting of the Standing Committee of the General Synod he said that one of his big regrets was that he had not managed to persuade the Church of Ireland of the value of and importance of periodic sabbatical leave for clergy for study and refreshment in ministry.
‘We remember our former Bishop, Samuel, with immense affection and thanksgiving to God and, on behalf of us all in Cork, Cloyne and Ross, I extend our sincere sympathy to all his family, especially to his wife Noreen, and his children Jennifer, Tim and Stephanie and their families. May he rest in God’s peace and rise in glory.’