A tribute to Canon Frank Dexter

First published on: 9th May 2023

Written by Canon Ian Flintoft

With the death of Canon Frank Dexter on 13th April, the Diocese and the wider Church has lost a wise and faithful servant and steward of the mysteries of God.  

Having met his wife Jill during his ordination training Frank was made deacon in 1968 and priested in 1969.  After curacies in Newcastle West deanery, Frank’s first incumbency was in Peterborough Diocese: it was here that some of the hallmarks of his later ministry developed – the training of curates (one curate there was Bishop Graham James) and committed engagement in the wider life of the Church and its organisational structure. Returning to Newcastle Diocese, Frank served first at St Philip’s High Elswick (and then also at St Augustine’s) and as Rural Dean of Newcastle West deanery. Then followed 20 years as Vicar of St George’s Jesmond, where Frank exercised a fruitful ministry in both church and wider community – for instance, presenting 205 candidates for confirmation. 

His service of the wider Church was lived out both in the Diocese of Newcastle (as placement supervisor; work consultant; Chair of the Board of Social Responsibility; member of the Diocesan Synod for 24 years - 10 of them as Chair of the House of Clergy – and of Bishop’s Council for 18 years; Chair of the Communications Committee; architect of the MDR process) and in the Church of England (13 years on General Synod, including chairing many debates, and significant committee work on clergy conduct and discipline).  Beyond this, he was, as Bishop Martin says, ‘highly valued as a senior colleague, full of wisdom, insight, and common sense.’ In retirement, his ministry was much appreciated at Hexham Abbey and elsewhere.

In all this, the encouragement of his family was key, and he regarded Jill, Helen, and Nicola as both his strongest supporters and his greatest critics. As Frank said, ‘any married priest who preaches badly should avoid Sunday family lunch!’ In latter times, Frank was delighted to become a grandfather to his four grandchildren of whom he was very proud. 

As one of his curates I, along with many others, benefitted from Frank’s wisdom and depth of experience, his love for the people for whom he had pastoral responsibility, his humility and delight in the gifts and giftedness of others, and the wicked sense of humour always lurking just under the surface.  Always insisting on high standard in liturgy and parish life, Frank was also a very convincing dame in the annual parish pantomime at Jesmond!

Where better to end than with Frank’s own words about the nature of his calling.  Approaching retirement he wrote that the calling of a priest is, ‘to be a representative, displaying to the people of God the nature of their calling, enabling them to fulfil their task, and encouraging that involvement with the world which is laid upon us by the Incarnation.’

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