Tributes pour in after sudden death of much-loved Chorley vicar

Rev Tim Wilby
Rev Tim Wilby
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TRIBUTES have poured in after the sudden death of a popular vicar.

The Rev Tim Wilby lost a brave battle after suffering a major stroke last week.

He was vicar at St George’s Church in Chorley and area dean of the borough.

The father of four, who is survived by his wife Hilary, was just 57 years old. Today tributes have been paid to a “star who shone brightly”.

Rev Wilby was a popular and well-known figure across Lancashire where he spent his entire ordained ministry, apart from a short stint as an Army chaplain.

He took up his post at St George’s in 2007 and became well-known for his popular Ask the Vicar sessions, when he could be found sitting on a garden chair with a sign inviting town shoppers to “ask me anything”.

The idea was to help people in Chorley realise that his church was very much a part of the community.

Rev Wilby was ordained in 1983 after studying at University College, Durham, and trained for the priesthood at Cuddesdon, Oxford.

After a spell as the curate of St Wilfrid’s, Standish, from 1986 to 1989, he was Regimental Chaplain to the British Army of the Rhine.

Then he moved to become Vicar of All Saints Church in Chorley from 1989 until 1995.

Father Edmund Straczak took over leadership of All Saints CoE Church in Chorley when Rev Wilby left. He said: “He was and remains very highly regarded. Many people have very fond memories of him. I counted him as a friend, he will be greatly missed.”

Between 1995 and 2000 Rev Wilby was Vicar of St Leonard, Penwortham, before becoming team rector of the five churches in the Fellside team, which includes the parishes of Barton, Bilsborrow, Bleasdale, Goosnargh and Whitechapel.

From Fellside, Rev Wilby moved to St George’s where he was Vicar for nearly a decade, taking on the additional role of Area Dean of Chorley in 2011. He was also chairman of Governors of St George’s CofE School in Chorley.

In 2013 he worked with Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle to help save the famous Chorley Walking Day, which involves churches from across the town, and they received the support of Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw.

Paying tribute, Mr Hoyle said Rev Wilby was a “star of Chorley who shone brightly”.

“He can never be replaced,” he said. “My thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

Paying tribute to Rev Wilby, the Diocesan Bishop Rt Rev Julian Henderson, the Bishop of Blackburn, said: “We give thanks to God for Tim and remember his dedicated service in our Diocese since 1983.

“While we are assured of the certainty of our Christian hope and especially in this Advent season I, together with the whole Diocese, hold Tim’s wife Hilary, his four children, his wider family and friends and his congregation at St George’s in our prayers.”

And the Archdeacon of Blackburn, The Venerable Mark Ireland, who knew Rev Wilby for more than 30 years, paid a personal tribute to him during the 8am service at St George’s on Sunday morning, saying: “Tim was an outstanding parish priest and a good friend.

“I remember Tim when we were curates together in the diocese 30 years ago. He could always be relied on to cheer up the dullest post-ordination training session with an amusing quip or anecdote, and his love of life, his love of people and his love of God were truly infectious.

“And in his role as Area Dean of Chorley I found his pastoral wisdom and advice about some of the challenges we face to be invaluable.”

As a a talented musician, Rev Wilby combined his desire to help others and his musical skills, completing a 24-hour organ recital when serving as Fellside Team Rector, in each of the Fellside Churches, as the grand finale to a pilgrimage for Lent in 2005.

In his spare time Rev Wilby had played keyboards for around a decade in Chorley’s Starlight Swing Band.

Band leader and member of Mr Wilby’s church Ian Hunter said: “Tim’s passing leaves two holes in my life – in the swing band and in the pulpit of my church. Tim was very easy company – I will miss him greatly.”

Malcolm Allen, chairman of Chorley Traders Alliance, said: “Traders of the St George’s quarter are very saddened by his death.

“He always worked with us in a co-operative manner. We always said he was the vicar of the traders in the town centre and he was just very helpful.”

Rev Wilby was married to Hilary for 35 years and the couple have four children aged between 25 and 32.