Obituary – Bishop Brian Herd

Bishop Brian Herd

Born in Belfast in 1931, Brian, like C S Lewis, never lost his accent (the Karimojong called him ‘The Voice’!). He began training as an accountant but after a deep conversion experience was called to the Christian ministry. In 1955 he went to Clifton Theological College and quite soon felt a calling to go overseas. Before doing so he served as a curate at St Luke’s, Wolverhampton.

Having applied to BCMS (now Crosslinks) in 1959, in 1961 he went to Karamoja: (being a place of cattle this was suitable for a man named Herd!), beginning in Lotome (the place of the elephant). After language exams he moved to Namalu in Pian County and in 1963 married Norma, also a BCMS mission partner.

Brian’s ministry was evangelism and the building up of a pastoral network. In 1964 he and Norma moved to Moroto, the Government Headquarters. Karamoja is about the size of Wales and apart from Revd Yovani Mukule from Teso, who was in the Labwor area, Brian was the only ordained man. So he was in a different centre each Sunday while his and Norma’s home was a centre for many activities and visitors.

Brian ran two courses a year for pastors and evangelists. He appealed to the rest of Uganda for missionaries to Karamoja and gradually a number of Ugandans came, among them one Stanley Ntagali from Bunyoro, now the Church of Uganda’s Archbishop. Twice a year a Ugandan Diocese would send a mission team and with them and resident pastors there would be a mission in one area.

Like Barnabas, Brian was an encourager – of those who worked in schools, youth work, the agricultural scheme and at Amudat Hospital. He also encouraged Bishop Tucker Theological College at Mukono to take the first two Akimojong students. By 1976 there were 12 pastors, made up of those who had come from elsewhere in Uganda and from Karamoja itself. Having been made Archdeacon in 1970, Brian was surprised to be invited to become Bishop of the new Diocese of Karamoja when it was carved out of the Diocese of Soroti in 1976.

His time as Diocesan Bishop was short-lived. After Archbishop Janani was killed in February 1977, Brian’s life was under threat but he was miraculously protected: instead, President Amin deported him with Norma being left behind to pack up after 16 years in Karamoja. Back in Ireland, he was on the staff of Crosslinks for 12 years. Here too he was frequently on safari, preaching in a different church each Sunday, supporting mission partners and encouraging local churches in their awareness and involvement with the world church. His Ugandan experience contributed much to his ministry in these years.

In 1989 he moved back into parish ministry, first in North London and then in South Derbyshire. Retirement and a move to Weymouth, came in 1998. The same year he became Chairperson of the UCA, counting it a great privilege to follow Bishop John Taylor and others in this role. He retained this role until 2005 and one of his contributions was the inclusion of the prayer diary linked to the map of Ugandan Dioceses and contact details that are found in the centre of the UCA Newsletter.

Brian and Norma continued to keep in touch with Karamoja and over the years made several visits back, including to the service for the division of Karamoja into 2 Dioceses. He was encouraged to hear news of missions and the creation of new village churches. One person described Brian as humble, humorous and hospitable. His ministry could be summed up by 2 Corinthians 4.5, ‘We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.’

Compiled from material provided by Norma Herd and a tribute by Canon Andy Lines, Mission Director of Crosslinks.