Service of thanks for former minister

Goring United Reformed Church paid tribute to a former minister in a thanksgiving service on Saturday.

Tuesday, 13th December 2016, 9:20 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:37 pm
The Rev William Connelly was known by many names, most recently The Gladiator, due to his perseverance

The life and work of the late Rev William Connelly was celebrated in a service conducted by the Rev Andrew Sellwood.

Mr Connelly, who died on October 10, aged 89, was minister of the church from 1974 to 1991.

His widow, Mary, read a poem Mr Connelly had written himself and their grandchildren also gave poetry readings.

The Rev William Connelly was minister at Goring United Reformed Church from 1974 to 1991

Elder daughter Helen Papadogianni came over from Crete to read the lesson and son James Connelly, professor of politics at Hull University, made the main presentation. Younger daughter Fiona Zomer, who lives in Los Angeles, was unable to attend.

Mr Connelly was born an identical twin in Chesterfield on December 20, 1926. He was not a great scholar but at the age of 12 decided to improve himself.

He was an apprentice in the laboratories at Chesterfield Technical College and later worked at Sheepbridge Ironworks, testing metal.

From 1945 to 1948, he served in the Royal Navy and legend has it that he set sail the day the war ended.

The Rev William Connelly was minister at Goring United Reformed Church from 1974 to 1991

He began his training to be a minister in Lancashire in 1948 and was ordained in Yorkshire n 1953.

William and Mary met at Manchester University and were married in Cornwall on August 2, 1954.

Mr Connelly worked at churches in Shropshire and Nottingham, and at Donnington Barracks, before he came to the attention of the Goring church when his Sunday morning service was broadcast on television in 1973 and he was invited to become the minister.

Active in ecumenical work, he was a chaplain of Swandean Hospital, member of the St Barnabas Hospice committee and governor of Worthing Sixth Form College. He also helped from the Stroke Club, now Kestro, and did a lot of youth work.

After retirement, he enjoyed watching Sussex county cricket matches and wrote a book, Et Teneo Et Teneor, on the life and teaching of Doris Greenwell.

Mr Connelly was known by various names over the years, like The Aged Prior, but most recently, at the care home where he died, he was called The Gladiator, due to his perseverance and great tenacity for life.

For more information and to hear Mr Connelly preaching, visit

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