Warm tributes have been paid to a ‘gentle and loving’ Banbury vicar who has died following a battle with cancer.
Rev Edward Coombs was vicar of St Paul’s Church on Warwick Road and died in Katharine House Hospice at the age of 49 on September 12. He leaves behind his wife Annabelle and their three children.
But despite the sadness of his death, members of the church congregationhave paid tribute to ‘a highly-esteemed pastor and a very true friend’.
A statement from the church it said: “Edward gave 14 years of his life to the church family at St Paul’s. He will be best remembered for his quiet humility and his highly effective one-to-one ministry.
“He cared deeply for others right to the very end of his life and gave the last few weeks of his life over to spending time with the many people who came to visit him at home, still encouraging and supporting them.
“But Edward would be the first to say that he was only able to love others so deeply because he knew just how much Jesus loved him. Time and again the night before he died he repeated the words ‘Jesus is everything’.”
Rev Coombs and his wife moved to Banbury in 2001 with their two young children after he had finished his training at Dagenham Parish Church.
Once they had settled in the vicarage on Bretch Hill, the family soon made their home and the church centre the warm and welcoming refuge it has been over the years.
During his ministry at St Paul’s many other outreach groups at the church centre on Prescott Avenue began and continued to thrive under Rev Coombs’ ministry and that of his team of gifted leaders .
Groups include the Wed-nesday morning coffee stop (Open Door), holiday clubs and after school club (Lighthouse) and the monthly Sunday meeting for people with learning difficulties (Shine).
The couple also strongly supported and reshaped the annual church weekend which this last year welcomed more than 100 adults to gospel talks, family meals and games over a whole weekend at Warwick Road and up on Bretch Hill.
Away from his church duties, Revered Coombs also enjoyed the great outdoors
The church statement added: “Edward read geology at Bristol University before training for the Anglican ministry at Durham. So it is not surprising that his great love outside his family and his church family was walking and particularly mountain walking.
“On days off he would take himself off to explore North Oxfordshire, trusty OS map in hand, rarely following established walks and sometimes finding unconventional ways across major obstacles!
“ He had a particular affection for Snowdonia and made special trips to climb Cader Idris with each of his three children, camping overnight at the bottom to ensure an early start. But, such was Edward’s ability to be content wherever he found himself, the big skies and less hilly terrain of Norfolk also gave him enormous pleasure on many a family holiday.
“Edward’s leadership at St Paul’s has been characterised by humility, love and service. The church family of St Paul’s has changed, not least by doubling in number, but whenever Edward saw the need for change, he was always careful to take the congregation with him.
“The teaching of God’s word and Jesus Christ’s saving death and resurrection shaped everything that Edward did at St Paul’s and he was only interested in changing things that threatened to take his people’s eyes off Jesus.”
Jenny Timms is one of the founding congregation members on Bretch Hill and added: “Edward was a very loving, spiritual, kind and gentle man. It was through his preaching, teaching and love that we now have 40 to 50 people meeting at the Sunshine Centre every Sunday evening.”
A preaching group took on the role of teaching and preaching at St Paul’s during Rev Coombs’ illness with new curate Richard Power.
A thanksgiving service to celebrate Rev Coombs’ life will be at St Paul’s Church tomorrow (Friday), at 2pm.
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