Rev Canon Neville Black, MBE, 40 Years of Ministry in Liverpool, with a foreword
Canon Neville Black writes about his long local career in this quite short (120 pages) book: he started
life in Bootle, but his ministry has taken him into different parts of Liverpool, from Everton to Toxteth.
Neville’s early days weren’t all easy, though the companionship of his friends at school seems to have
occurred naturally, and to have been prized by him, as he grew up. The book will be of great interest
to those who are local members of the Church of England, perhaps less interesting to Roman
Catholics, or Jews, or Muslims, or convinced atheists – unless, of course, any of these potential
readers from outside the Church of England are willing to learn more about the species known as
Merseyside Church of England ministers. On the history of the various other local religious
communities he has much less to say, but much of what he writes about his own church is honest and
detailed. He was clearly aware of the different communities that changed the city during his life as a
clergyman, and had a great sympathy for them, and the poor accommodation in which they frequently
Although he worked with a lot of professional colleagues in the ministry, and clearly throve on the
fruitful contacts he was able to make, he is willing to provide critical assessments of some notable
people, including Bishop David Sheppard, whom he sees as compartmentalising his life, and not
offering personal warmth; the good Bishop was also, he notes, more inclined to promote public school
men than those educated in the State sector.
In his foreword to the book, Rev Sam Wells, a regular broadcaster on the radio, clearly detects a
warmth in the personality of Neville Black, which enabled him to break down resistance from those
who accepted a Church that was set in its ways, and to help it to adapt to changing needs and
customs in the Britain of the 1970s and later.
As Neville writes on the very last page of the book, of his wife, who died in 2016, she coped well with
rheumatoid arthritis, becoming a counsellor in the 1990s, and continuing with that work until shortly
before her death. He shows that she had skills that complemented his own. Neville himself worked
until his seventies, constantly developing new paths for the local churches he ran or participated in.
The book can be purchased from Canon Black’s website.