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Rev Sidney George Stuart Hinkes

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Rev Sidney George Stuart Hinkes

  • Birth 4 Feb 1925 Harwich, Tendring District, Essex, England
  • Death 8 Feb 2005 Fairford, Cotswold District, Gloucestershire, England
  • Burial Crudwell, Wiltshire Unitary Authority, Wiltshire, England
  • Memorial ID 27778137

Christian pacifist leader.

There is a long tradition of Anglo-Catholic Christian priests seeing pacifism as intrinsic to the Gospel. This belief is typified by the life example of Reverend Sidney Hinkes. For 50 years he attended most anti-war demonstrations held throughout the United Kingdom and, in the process, became one of the greatest pacifist leaders in the modern day Christian Church.

The son of an Essex postman, he was born and educated in Dagenham. He was called up in 1943 and served with the 3rd Parachute Brigade as a wireless operator in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Palestine. He married his wife, Elsie, in 1945 and studied for a London degree. Having been accepted for ordination, he attended St Stephen's House, Oxford, from 1950 to 1952.

His first post as a curate was at St Paul's Burton upon Trent. After two years he returned to Essex at Leigh-on-Sea. It was here at the height of the Suez crisis that he became a pacifist. At a service to commemorate the Arnhem operation he had been reproached by one of his congregation for not praying for the German dead. This led him to examine the arguments for the just war and, being very single-minded, he became a pacifist.

He offended many parishioners by preaching a sermon attacking the Suez invasion, for which his bishop reprimanded him. When the scandal reached the national press, Hinkes' posting to what was then Southern Rhodesia was withdrawn. It was the beginning of a lifetime's commitment to the cause of peace, often embroiled in controversy.

Further reflection led Hinkes to conclude that strict pacifism was the essence of Christianity; it was not a corollary, it was part of the definition of the faith. To be a Christian meant to oppose all war and preparation for war. His pacifism was not negotiable. Well read, he was a formidable opponent in debate, yet possessing a distinctive sense of humour: with a twinkle in his eye, he would joke about equally staunch colleagues whose vehemence "put the 'fist' into 'pacifist'".

During his time at Leigh-on-Sea (1954-58), he chaired the Southend Anti-H-Bomb Committee, and, later, in Chalvey, Slough (1958-66), carried a cross on Aldermaston marches and accommodated scores of marchers in his home. In 1964, he became chair of Christian CND, leading processions from London to Canterbury to motivate church opposition to the Vietnam war.

In 1966 he moved to the Barton Estate on the edge of Oxford. This had been built to provide housing for slum clearance from the centre of Oxford and was a difficult area that suited him. He ministered faithfully while never attracting large congregations. While there he gained an external BD from London University.

The vicarage was the centre of vast activity, as a refuge and also the place where he and Elsie brought up five children and fostered others. He soon became a figure on the Oxford scene, not only on matters of peace but also race relations. At a time when immigrants were moving into east Oxford, he did much, as chairman of the Oxford Committee for Community Relations, to smooth their path.

It was during that period that Hinkes first met fellow campaigner Paul Oestreicher, at a Christian CND demonstration at Porton Down, the defence ministry's laboratory for biochemical research in Wiltshire. Hinkes felt that Oestreicher's readiness to countenance soldiers engaged in peacekeeping operations seemed an unprincipled sell-out. Yet their mutual commitment could withstand such differences; they were at one in deploring the fact that the Church of England, fragmented by secondary concerns, should marginalise life and death issues of war and peace.

Following national publicity of his 1956 sermon, Hinkes was recruited into the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship (APF), a body he was to inspire for a generation and for which he worked tirelessly. It was to be the platform for his constant challenge of the established church's acceptance of militarism. In 1975 he became APF secretary, and his Oxford home was the fellowship's headquarters for 15 years. Working with Gordon Wilson, the chairman, he helped to initiate the Week of Prayer for World Peace and was active in the World Congress of Religions for Peace. For 13 years Wilson and Hinkes were a formidable campaigning duo, especially during Lambeth conferences of Anglican bishops.

He moved to Chalvey near Slough he began to take part in the Aldermaston marches and became chairman of Christian CND. He helped to found the Week of Prayer for World Peace and lobbied successive Lambeth conferences.

In 1982 Hinkes started regular peace prayers in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, an example followed by other cathedrals. He would attend any vigil, rally or demonstration for peace - from London streets to the mud of RAF Molesworth in Northamptonshire - always carrying the distinctive APF cross. After conducting a pacifist mission to New Zealand, he became chair of APF in 1993, following in the footsteps of figures such as George Lansbury. Following his retirement as vicar of St Mary's, Headington, Oxford (1983-90), he continued to be active in the fellowship, and its representative on the Network of Christian Peace Organisations.

His theology was conservatively Catholic in what he held to be essentials; yet his pastoral and parochial practice was radically open, both to the working-class culture and the ethnic diversity of those in or near his parishes. He was at the forefront of community relations work; strong in his own faith, he pioneered inter-faith worship.

In retirement he never stopped working. Living in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, he was archdeaconry officer for retired clergy, as well as preaching all over the country.

Hinkes died of a heart condition of which he had been unaware. His diary was fully booked for the year ahead. He was widely read, a powerful and convincing preacher and speaker.

To Hinkes, peacemaking was anything but passive. His priesthood was a total commitment to the nonviolent struggle to bring about God's just and gentle rule. However tough and demanding, it was never embittered. Throughout it all, his constant support and co-provider of hospitality and generosity was his indefatigable wife Elsie. She survives him, as do their five children and three long-term foster children.


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  • Created by: D. L.
  • Added: 24 Jun 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 27778137
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Rev Sidney George Stuart Hinkes (4 Feb 1925–8 Feb 2005), Find A Grave Memorial no. 27778137, citing All Saints Churchyard, Crudwell, Wiltshire Unitary Authority, Wiltshire, England ; Maintained by D. L. (contributor 46989421) .