Obituary: Rev Ian Davidson, vicar, counsellor, author of An Approach to Christian Healing through Gestalt

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Rev Ian George Davidson. Born: 5 August 1932 in Upper Holloway, Islington, London.Died: 6 July 2019, in Edinburgh, aged 86.

It was a commitment as a teenager to the Boy Scout movement that gave Ian Davidson his first real taste of organised communal activities as well as of outdoor pursuits - experiences he went on to develop in his religious and spiritual ministries.

As a member of the 6th Finchley Scout Troup he achieved the highest accolade of King’s Scout in 1948. And as an undergraduate at the London School of Economics where he successfully studied for a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics, Ian developed his skills in mountain climbing, tackling some of Britain’s most challenging climbs, serving on mountain rescue teams and as an instructor in an outward bound centre in Cumbria. Later, in the sixties, he led a challenging trek in the north ridge of the Rocky Mountains in Canada.

After a spell in the Royal Navy on national service and in teaching Ian could not ignore the call to the priesthood and between 1955 and 1958 he studied at Lincoln Theological College.

Between 1964 and 1967 whilst Honorary Priest Vicar of Southwark Cathedral in South London he served as Youth Chaplain for the surrounding Diocese. From 1967 to 1972 he was Vicar of Great as well as of Little Cornard in Suffolk. Thereafter and until 1979 he was Student Counsellor at Ipswich Civic College.

It was in 1965 that he met Gill who was then a student midwife. It was love at first sight. Six weeks after their first meeting Ian proposed, though they waited until after Gill had finished her training before they married.

The couple were keen to have a family. Gill fell pregnant with twins but tragedy hit them as one baby was stillborn and the other died within the next hour. Ian was however able to administer the sacrament of Baptism.

In one of life’s cruel ironies Gill, the deliverer of many babies, never conceived again. But it was not long after the birth of the twins that she and Ian adopted Malcolm and then Fiona, then babies themselves.

In 1979 until 1983 he was Rector of Witnesham with Swilland and Ashbocking in Suffolk. Making good use of the spaciousness afforded by the Witnesham Rectory Gill and Ian ran a Christian community called the Water of Life Fellowship

From 1983 to 1988 Ian was Warden of Scargill House – a conference and holiday centre run by a Christian community in the Yorkshire Dales. There he ran Journey into Healing, events leading people towards the understanding of what it means to say sorry as well as to forgive.

Ian studied Clinical Theology under Dr Frank Lake, a leading pioneer in pastoral counselling who introduced him to Gestalt therapy and whilst at Scargill House he wrote his book An Approach to Christian Healing through Gestalt subsequently published in 1991. During the nineties Ian achieved advanced accreditation with the Association of Christian Counsellors.

In 1988 Ian and Gill moved to Edinburgh. They settled comfortably into the congregation of Christ Church Episcopalian Church on Holy Corner in Morningside at the same time as Ian fulfilled his duties as Chaplain of the Christian Fellowship of Healing, also originally based at Holy Corner, evidencing a basic premise of the Fellowship that it was complementary to more traditional religious organisations.

The Fellowship offered regular meetings for prayer, bible study and worship as well as individual counselling. Ian had a reputation for being a good leader, stretching people to take on responsibility both within the Fellowship and in their own lives and relationships.

He developed a strand called Christian Listening through courses and group activities with particular emphasis on Gestalt therapy. Another strand was Community Building originally fostered by the Foundation of Intentional Community. Ian became its contact in Edinburgh, bringing people together in groups aimed at helping participants overcome their individual differences.

Ian felt he was being used by Christ as a channel for healing. In the weekly healing service one member with ME, for example, recounts how the laying on of hands helped lessen her condition at least for periods of time. And when a non-Christian professional circus performer dropped in, after she had had an accident which she feared would affect her livelihood, after a period of prayer with Ian she felt pain-free.

At the age of 65 Ian retired from the Fellowship but then became Assistant Warden at Carberry Tower Musselburgh at the time it was owned by the Church of Scotland and used as a conference centre.

And until 2002 he was Pastoral Chaplain to Church of Scotland clergy within the Edinburgh Presbytery. However memory problems forced him into a second retirement and by 2012 he was diagnosed with dementia. This did not prevent him however from being able to read the Gospel during Sunday worship.

The type of dementia Ian was affected by was an uncommon one called Frontal Temporal Dementia. The family hope some good may come of this through the donation of his brain to medical research.

Ian is survived by his wife Gill, son Malcolm, daughter Fiona, grandchildren Ashley, Maya, Liam, Suma and brother Keith. Brother Colin was killed in a car crash in 1975.

KAY SMITH