The Reverend Simon Bailey (16 June 1955 – 27 November 1995) was an Anglican priest and writer.
He came to national attention when a television documentary was made of how he continued his work in the parish after telling his Bishop and parishioners he had AIDS - the first British priest to do so.
Simon Bailey was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, one of five children - Rosemary, Simon, Martin, Jacqueline, and Caroline - of the Reverend Walter Bailey. Walter was a Baptist minister who combined conservative evangelical theological convictions with social radicalism. He bought his first television in order to be able to watch the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965. He supported the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and actually died while distributing leaflets for the Labour Party. The socialist historians E. P. Thompson and Dorothy Thompson as well as J. B. Priestley were regular visitors to the family home in Halifax, West Yorkshire.
The family moved first to Birkenhead and then toStoke-on-Trent, following Walter as he was called to different churches. Eventually he became so idiosyncratic that he ran his own church from home.
Simon Bailey continued his education at Regent's Park College, the Baptist Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford, where he read English Language and Literature under John F. Kiteley (himself once the pupil of J. R. R. Tolkien).
Despite having chosen to study at the Baptist Regent's Park, Simon Bailey was by now unhappy in the Baptist tradition. He received the sacrament of confirmation in the Church of England, embracing Anglicanism as more "aesthetic and sensual".
Simon Bailey's one work of scholarship was his study, A Tactful God: Gregory Dix: Priest, Monk and Scholar (Leominster: Gracewing, 1995).
He also wrote pastoral works,
- Stations: places for pilgrims to pray (Sheffield: Cairns Publications, 1991)
- Still with God (London: Church House, 1986)
- Still with God: a new way of praying (London: National Society; Church House, 1993)
- The well within: parables for living and dying (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1996)
The biography, Scarlet Ribbons: A Priest with AIDS (London: Serpent's Tail, 1997), by his sister Rosemary Bailey, contains extracts from his unpublished writings. These hint at considerable literary gifts and it is to be hoped that a full publication will appear eventually. He was particularly interested in the poetry of R. S. Thomas and of John Milton, whose blindness Bailey identified with his own illnesses.
Simon Bailey was a sexually active gay man who contracted HIV. He learned that he had the virus just as he took up the position of Rector of Dinnington in South Yorkshire. When he became too unwell to conceal his condition from the people around him he informed the diocesan authorities and gradually introduced the news to his own parishioners. Though not the only Anglican priest at that time to be HIV-positive, and eventually to develop AIDS, he was the first to stay in parish ministry, continuing to celebrate the Eucharist until only a few weeks before his death. One of the most remarkable features of his time at Dinnington was the love and care that he received from his parishioners. The priest visibly dying among the people to whom he ministered was a powerful symbol of Christ, evocative of the line, 'The wounded surgeon plies the steel', in East Coker by T. S. Eliot.
Simon Bailey became well known to a wider public as a result of a BBC Everyman programme, Simon's Cross, that was broadcast in January 1995. The making of the programme led to his sister writing the biography, Scarlet Ribbons: A Priest with AIDS (London: Serpent's Tail, 1997).
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