Welcome + Worship + Witness
John Sheard

The Rector: Sermon at the Funeral of John Michael Sheard

Skipton Crematorium
14th June 2021
Revd Nicholas Mercer

We meet together this morning to say farewell to our brother in Christ, John

· Husband of Brenda,

· Father of Carol and Sarah and

· Grandfather to no less than six grandchildren

His family life alone speaks of the blessings of time and happiness on this Earth

With a loving wife and family around him

I have been the Rector at the Priory for just over two years – half of which has been in lockdown

I have had not had much time to get to know my parishioners but John always struck me as a man who was content with his life

Faultlessly charming, courteous whenever we spoke on our way into or out of Church

His old fashioned grace and manners so uplifting in these sometimes less courteous times

John, of course, will always be remembered as the Estate Manager at Bolton Priory

He was the resident land agent at Bolton Abbey for no less than 33 years and had an enormous responsibility for an Estate which had

No less than 85 farms when he started together with

· Forestry

· Fishing

· Grouse moors

· Quarries

· Lettings

· 85 miles of footpaths

· As well as the general public who have grown ever larger in number and expectation

He oversaw great change in his time

Such as the development of the Devonshire Arms Hotel and the Village Hall and arranging new access agreements to the moors which allowed greater freedom for walkers

As the Rector, I have myself directly benefitted from the access with lovely walks on the moors with my dog

I have often said that Bolton Abbey is a foretaste of heaven

John had the remarkable distinction of being only one of three land agents between 1885-1998

And the late Duchess of Devonshire said

“John’s 33 year stewardship was professionally, quietly and sympathetically carried out. Andrew and his Trustees had complete confidence in him and his staff”

What a wonderful testament to his professional life

But this distinguished professional life was also accompanied by a life in the Church at Bolton Priory

He was a communicant for his entire life professional life at Bolton Abbey, for over 50 years, and was a founder member of the choir and sometime Church organist

Indeed, when I first arrived, as I was struggling to remember everyone’s name, I was given a picture of the choir with John robed on the back row

He sang God’s praises all his earthly life

But a professional life and a life in the Church cannot be lived independently from each other

They inform and direct us in all that we say and do

And his Christian life so obviously guided and directed his land management

First and foremost, he was a steward of God’s creation

Psalm 24 says “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein”.

It is incumbent upon us to take care of God’s creation

Not to plunder and exploit but to nurture and preserve and to pass it on to the next generation in better condition than the last

The late Duchess described John as a “steward”

And indeed, he was a kind and gentle steward of the land who passed on the Bolton Abbey Estates in better condition than the last

And this tradition continues – not least with the challenge of global warming which now urgently confronts us all

But by working as a land agent, John will have been acutely aware of the seasons of the year

But, as we all know, there are seasons of our life as well

As it says in Ecclesiastes “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven”.

A time to live and a time to die

But the verse goes on

“God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end”.

But the Book of Revelation, which we heard read earlier, which reminds us that, as well as our seasons here on earth

God has also created “a new heaven and a new earth”

A time when “our frail bodies will be conformed to his glorious body”

Who died, was buried, and rose again for us

And so today, we say goodbye to John

We give thanks for life well lived

· As Husband,

· Father,

· Faithful servant of the Church

· And steward of God’s creation

As we say farewell, we look forward to meeting once again in God’s heavenly Kingdom