Friends, family and colleagues gathered in Guildford on Sunday 26 June to give a fitting send off to Canon Derek Holbird, the diocesan director of education, who retires this summer.
Derek’s steadfast leadership of the Guildford Board of Education for the past 15 years was celebrated with a cathedral service, followed by a reception in the marquee, before he preached at the cathedral’s evensong. [Sermon]
Bishop Andrew spoke of how Derek’s gentle nature made him an asset during his many years of committed service to education, both for the diocese and as a teacher. [Sermon]
In a special moment of prayer shared by family and friends, Bishop Andrew laid his hands on Derek and his wife, Liz, giving thanks for their contributions and praying for their future.
Following the service, Derek personally greeted his guests as they made their way into the ‘canvas cathedral’ for a reception that included pupils from three church schools in the diocese, Esher High School, Christ’s College and The Priory, showcasing their singing and musical talents – skills shared with Derek himself, who is an accomplished guitarist.
Indeed, Derek joined a band of his friends and colleagues past and present in a rendition of the folk song ‘Blue Nose’, to which the band had added some ‘bespoke’ verses about him.
Toasts from Derek’s colleagues followed. Nigel Genders, chief education officer for the Church of England gave a “heartfelt thankyou from all the national education network”. Sue Potter, director of the Good Shepherd Trust and member of the Diocesan Board of Education spoke of Derek’s desire to provide and nurture spiritual growth. Mike Hall, deputy director of education recalled Derek’s first post as an English teacher at Heath End Secondary School, Farnham, through various other schools in the area before becoming headteacher at Soho CofE Primary in 1988. There was praise for his skill in “steering the growth of the burgeoning academy agenda” with the setting up of the Good Shepherd Trust, with its acknowledged high reputation and now poised for a significant expansion in role.
There was mention too of his work serving Christ leading holiday clubs, environmental and charity work.
Derek siad of the occasion: “My wife Liz and I were overwhelmed and humbled that so many headteachers, governors, colleagues and friends were willing to give a precious Sunday afternoon to come along. The occasion was a celebration of all that is good in our church schools, with beautiful artwork, diverse styles of music performed brilliantly by our three excellent secondary schools, and encouragement for the diocese’s work in schools from the CofE’s national education office.
“I would like to pay tribute to the many colleagues in the Education team who have dramatically advanced our work in Christian Education over the years. It has been a tremendous privilege to serve the mission of the Diocese of Guildford through Education and my life has been changed in so many positive ways as a result.”