The gift of communication: the ability to listen

It is a rare skill to be able to communicate complicated points simply and well no matter who is the audience.  The ability to listen is an important and often underrated skill. My late father, Reverend Stuart Bamforth, had both these talents which played a prominent role during his life as an Anglican priest, a teacher and as a family man.

Let’s take listening first. Many years ago, the father of one of my childhood friends died early from cancer. His passing had not been easy and Dad visited his widow regularly to provide support. I remember her saying to me on one occasion that Dad had helped her greatly. I had wondered what Dad had been able to say to ease her sorrow. Dad’s reply: “I didn’t really say anything much.  I listened.”.

Dad was a well-known and much-loved figure in his local community.  After he died in 2015 one elderly man told Mum that Dad had eased a burden which he had shouldered for more than 40 years. The man was rather surprised when Mum said that Dad had not shared the matter with her. Dad had listened to, and kept, the man’s confidence and had known how best to alleviate the suffering the man was under.

As that second story shows listening and communication are often two sides of the same coin.

As well as being a priest, Dad was a teacher. I am a barrister and took Mum and Dad to a dinner in London. After dinner Dad went to collect his coat.  After what seemed like an age he returned surrounded by a group of student barristers, one of whom a former pupil.  The pupil had introduced Dad to his friends as, “This is Mr Bamforth who taught me all I know about the English language in his Latin classes!”. 

It is a testament to Dad’s innate abilities that he was such a successful communicator and listener. Dad read Greats at Hertford College between 1954 and 1958.  During this time Dad contracted an illness which was both serious and life-threatening.  The experimental treatment proposed saved his life but at a terrible cost.  It seriously damaged Dad’s hearing and resulted in him needing to wear hearing aids for the rest of his life.   

Dad left several hundred sermons at this death.  I have edited these into a series of thought-pieces which have been published as, Don’t fuss, love God, don’t fuss.  The book considers questions including: What is a Christian? What is prayer? How should I pray? What does the Lord’s Prayer actually mean? Just some of the questions people often ask as they explore their Christian faith. The book seeks to answer these and other questions in a straightforward, down to earth, and unapologetic way as well as pose questions of the reader for individual or group reflection. It has a foreword by the Bishop of Selby and is endorsed by the Bishop of Wakefield. The book also includes a short biography of my Dad to show how he practised what he preached.

In the video below, Hertford College Chaplain Revd Mia Smith shares her response to the book.

Don’t fuss, love God, don’t fuss by Ruth A. Bamforth published by Faithbuilder publishing.


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