The Trust’s first Chair, the Reverend Canon Chris Byers, sadly passed away last month, just six months shy of his 80th birthday.
Chris lived in Thamesmead for many years as a Rector and as a Member of the Ecumenical Clergy team. He was made an Honorary Canon of Southwark Cathedral in 1996 and was a keen cricketer, playing for Chislehurst and West Kent and for 40 years in the nationwide Church Times Cup Competition, as well as being a Kent Cricket Committee member.
Paying tribute Trust Chair Vic Grimes said: “Chris was instrumental in setting up Trust Thamesmead and he also played a significant role in the history of Thamesmead. The Trust sends its condolences to Chris’s family.”
John Austin, the former MP for Erith & Thamesmead and a secular humanist, described Chris as a ‘good friend and good neighbour’.
He said “Thamesmead churches have a history of ecumenism but Chris’s ecumenism was not about resolving doctrinal differences; it was about shared values in serving human needs. He cared passionately about people and the community. He took a particular interest in local schools and the needs of young people.
“At times of community conflict his inter-faith work and respect for other communities diffused many potentially explosive situations. He was a key player in the “rainbow coalition” in the town. His mission was one of service to the whole community. Since his retirement he has returned to Thamesmead on many occasions where he has been welcomed back with warmth and affection.
“Having visited Chris and Estelle in Whitstable, I know of his continuing community involvement there in local environmental and social issues and in retirement he also found time for his other passion, cricket. Kent CCC has lost one of its most loyal supporters.”
Thamesmead resident, Sandy White said: “Chris and I met when I took over as Brownie Leader of 5th Abbey Wood Brownies in 1990 when we held our Monday meetings at St Paul’s Church. We instantly became friends and he became a great supporter of my Brownie Pack, often attending meetings and enjoying a cup of tea (black no sugar) whilst catching up with what we were doing by speaking to the Brownies and the leaders. Chris was a tall and elegant man and the children looked up to him (literally).
“He supported and often instigated many of the community and school events that happened in Thamesmead (1990–2001) and he and his wife Estelle continued to offer support and friendship to the community after they moved away.
“Chris was a great friend to me and made time for everyone. He would always say, ‘Things happen for a reason, although that reason may not be clear, it will in time’.
“I will draw strength from his words of wisdom. He will be very sadly missed and never forgotten.”