The Rev Eric Burton obituary

My father, Eric Burton, who has died aged 96, was a Congregational Church minister who conducted services in many churches across the UK and in the 1960s was secretary for children’s work at the Congregational Union headquarters in London. He also wrote a book, No Walls Within (1968), which was an innovative guide to creating a more inclusive atmosphere within churches and congregations, especially in terms of youth and children’s work.

Eric was born in Reading, the only son of Frederick, a Post Office clerk, and Annie (nee Roe), who worked in a general store. He went to the Perse school, Cambridge, as an evacuee during the second world war, and in 1944 joined the RAF.

At around the same time Eric became inspired by the ministry of Leslie Weatherhead of the City Temple church, London, and when he left the RAF in 1947 he entered Lancashire Independent College in Manchester to train as a congregational minister.

He was ordained in 1952 as minister of Barking church, east London, and in the same year married Joyce Darking, a primary school teacher. In 1956, the year after their first daughter, Cheralyn, was born, they moved to Ilfracombe, north Devon, where Eric became a minister and where I was born. During our childhood he would use his carpentry skills to make us some wonderful things, including a doll’s house and a magical toy theatre.

In 1960 the family moved to New Malden, Surrey, when Eric became secretary for children’s work at the Congregational Church Union, a role that led him to preach all over the UK. In 1966 he began 10 years as a minister at Highbury church in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, and during this time my brother, Kenneth, was born.

Eric’s next ministry was at Union church in Heathfield, East Sussex, from 1977 to 1980, after which he moved to Clarendon Park church, Leicester, where he often took part in broadcasts on BBC Radio Leicester. In each of his ministries he was dedicated to the pastoral care of his congregation and embellished family services by using art, music and storytelling.

In 1991 Eric and Joy retired to Nettleham, Lincolnshire, and in 2002 they celebrated their golden wedding. When Joy died in 2004, Eric moved to Long Eaton, Derbyshire, to live nearer to Cheralyn, but then a second marriage in 2006, to Vivienne Cooke, a family friend, took him to Beverley in Yorkshire.

Vivienne died in 2010 and five years later Eric moved into a care home in Nottingham. He is survived by his three children, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.