Donald Hilton: National church leader, Norfolk minister and EDP columnist

A national church leader, the Rev Donald Hilton, who has died peacefully aged 80 in Norwich, wrote a fortnightly column for the EDP for more than 10 years.

He became only the sixth minister at Princes Street Congregational Church, Norwich, in its 150-year history when he was inducted in April 1971.

His elder son, Jeremy, who studied at Brighton Polytechnic wrote a 12,000-word thesis in 1981 on the church's history recording that it had been founded in 1817 by a Scot, John Alexander, and was Congregational until 1972 when it merged with the Presbyterian Church.

In 1987, Mr Hilton was appointed Moderator of the Yorkshire Province – equivalent to an Anglican bishop – and later became head of the church's general assembly of the United Reformed Church.

He was formerly inducted as Moderator at the General Assembly at Portsmouth in July 1993 – ironically, in an earlier posting, he had been a minister at nearby Gosport.

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Before coming to Norwich, where he served a total of 16 years, he had been at churches in Croydon, and for six years had been Youth and Children's Secretary of the Congregational Church in England and Wales.

In October 1975, when he became president of the National Christian Education Council, formerly the National Sunday School Union, he noted that a former officer holder was Mr J J Colman, MP.

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During his time in Norwich, he had been chairman of the Free Church Council and co-president of the city's Council of Churches for about 10 years.

He served on several committees and was a member of the Norwich Historic Churches Trust for 10 years and took a leading role in creating an agreed syllabus for religious education for Norfolk County Council's education committee.

He also prepared a prayer leaflet for the Norfolk Council of Churches for the whole of Great Britain in 1981.

He was chairman of the joint publications board, which produced Christian educational material for churches.

An author of three anthologies, he also published Six Men and a Pulpit in 1980, which featured sermons from each of the six previous ministers at Princes Street Church.

In his final contribution to the EDP in September 1987, he noted that he had written a total of 260 articles for three editors for the Free Church Viewpoint.

He was Free Church Chaplain at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital from 1977 to 1983 and was also a religious adviser to Anglia Television.

He leaves a widow, Ann, two sons, Jeremy and Christopher, and four grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at Emmanuel Church, Bungay, on Wednesday, March 14 at 2.30pm.

Michael Pollitt

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