The Revd Dr Barrington (Barrie) Raymond White: 1934-2016
Eminent Baptist historian and former Principal of Regent's Park College
Barrie White, Principal of Regent’s Park College, Oxford 1972-1989, Church history tutor at Regent’s 1963-1972, and Minister of Andover Baptist Church 1959-63, died on 12 November 2016, aged 82.
Barrie was the oldest of six brothers, of whom he was very fond. His parents were Congregationalists, but Barrie started attending a Baptist church when he and another brother spent time with family friends, to ease things for his mother because it was wartime and his father had been called up. He met his future wife, Margaret, at Orpington Baptist Church when he was 16. They married seven years later, in 1957. His daughter Kathryn was born in 1960, and Sarah in 1963.
At school Barrie was a keen sportsman, playing both rugby and cricket. As a boy he played cricket with his father and the local Methodist team, an ecumenical tendency that he proudly continued in later life, when as Principal of Regent’s he played cricket with the local Jesuit college. His favourite subject at school was history.
However, Barrie had sensed a call to the ministry, and he won an Exhibition to read theology at Queens’ College Cambridge, 1953-56. In his DPhil, studied at Regent’s and completed in 1961, he brought the two passions together, with a historical study of the communities of believers which became the very early Baptists in England, and ultimately the United States. Through both his own continuing work and that of his DPhil students, Barrie became a leading figure in the scholarship of English Baptist history.
Barrie’s love of Baptist history was one expression of his broader love for the Church community, and particularly the Baptist segment of the ‘Communion of Saints’. He was student pastor in Abingdon Baptist Church in 1958, ordained in September 1959 and inducted as Minister at Andover. Although he was to return to Oxford to teach Church History in 1963, that time as pastor and preacher was both very happy and deeply formative.
He was a significant figure in the Baptist Union, including the early years of Mainstream, and was deeply trusted and respected in progressive Baptist circles in North America. Throughout his time at Regent’s, and particularly as Principal, the community of the college, the nurturing and encouragement of its members and its connections to the wider community of the Baptist denomination was at the heart of his vision and his joy.
In December 1980 Barrie developed epilepsy, to which he remained subject for the rest of his life. In 1990, just a year after stepping down as Principal of Regent’s, Barrie suffered a catastrophic fit which shattered his short term memory and left him unable to work. Further fits followed, his memory worsened and the level of his confusion deepened. He stayed at home until 2009, when Margaret had a fall and became unable any longer to look after him herself. As advanced dementia stripped much of what he had been and had known away, he nevertheless retained the essentials of his inimitable self: a mischievous sense of humour, a warm appreciation of the people around him, and a deep love for those who belonged to and with him, especially his most beloved Margaret.
He is survived by Margaret, Kathryn and Sarah, and his grandsons, Simon and Luther.
Tributes to leading Baptist historian
A thanksgiving service for Barrie's life was held at New Road Baptist Church, Oxford, at 12 noon on 28 November 2016. Barrie's colleague the Revd Professor Paul Fiddes spoke in the service, and his address is published here.
A DVD of the thanksgiving service has been prepared, which is free. Anyone interested should contact email@example.com
Gifts in memory of Barrie will go to Regent’s Park College or to Vale House, the care home in which he died. Please send to:
Regent’s Park College: Julie Reynolds, Director of Development and Alumni Relations: firstname.lastname@example.org
or Vale House: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/BarrieRWhite