Randal MacAlister

Former dean

Born: 31 December, 1941, in Ballinderry, Ireland. Died: 19 June, 2009, in Cortachy, Angus, aged 67.

THe Very Reverend Randal George Leslie MacAlister was retired dean of the diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane in the Scottish Episcopal Church.

He was born in Ireland, a son of the Manse. His father was rector of Ballinderry, and Randal was a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin. He was ordained in the Church of Ireland in 1964 and was appointed a curate in Portadown and then became rector of Keady with Amaghbreague. When his church warden, a sergeant in the Royal Ulster Constabulary was shot dead, he decided this was no place to bring up his two young sons and answered an advertisement for a living in Fife in the Scottish Episcopal Church.

This did not bear fruit, but recognising his qualities, the diocese of St Andrews persuaded him to consider St Mary's Kirriemuir in Angus. He became rector there in 1974, and went on to win a golden reputation. In 1981 he moved to Greenock in the diocese of Glasgow, but six years later, he was welcomed back to his former diocese of St Andrews to become the rector of Forfar in Angus.

In 1995, with a sense of adventure, he moved to the diocese of Europe and took charge of the chaplaincy at Sophia Antipolis in the south of France, where he ministered to a largely expatriate congregation where many were employed in the headquarters of large industrial concerns. His considerable mastery of French enhanced his ministry, particularly because he had to work without the resource of a dedicated church.

The Sunday service took place in a borrowed school building where the worship demanded an easy rapport between priest and people, which Randal achieved thanks to his linguistic ability and his welcoming personality.

From another charge, a former parishioner recalls being invited by him to undertake a job which she had every intention of refusing but ended gladly accepting his invitation. She was not resentful, but saw it as a mark of his engaging enthusiasm.

On various occasions he succeed to a charge where there were wounds to be healed and memories to be set aside. Here he proved a great reconciler. Wherever he went his pastoral gifts and charm won him deep affection. Even since retirement, he continued pastoral work and his personality will be sadly missed and his memory held dear.

His friendships were not limited to formal church-based contacts but sprang out of genuine affection.

The present bishop of the diocese has paid tribute to the kindness and welcome he received on his election from Randal, who at the time was still dean and therefore the senior priest of the diocese. He said: "His kindness and support for me in early days here were given with love. He loved and served faithfully."

In the debate over the ordination of women to the priesthood, which he opposed, it was typical of him that he took care to say to many of them who were his friends: "My opposition to this move is no reflection on yourselves. It has nothing to do with you but is my problem."

He is survived by his wife, Valerie, and their two sons, who have already experienced the kind of support and prayer that they have come to know as the hallmark of Randal's care of the members of his congregations.