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Fred Kaan

Fred was born in Voorhelmstraat, in the North Holland city of Haarlem in 1929. His years of early adolescence coincided with the Nazi occupation of Holland. His father was a member of the Dutch Resistance and, for two years, the Kaans sheltered a Jewish woman in their home and later gave refuge to an escaped political prisoner.

In 1952, having offered himself for the Congregational ministry, he left Holland and entered the Western College, Bristol, graduating at Bristol University in 1954. After a postgraduate year which included sociology and pastoral studies, Fred was called to be minister of Windsor Road Congregational Church in Barry, South Wales.

Moving to Pilgrim Church in Plymouth in 1963, Fred began work on a homemade hymn supplement entitled ‘Pilgrim Praise’. His hymn writing was born of necessity, out of the frustration of not finding what he wanted in the established hymnbook for Sunday’s worship, and out of eagerness to put into words those things which were close to his heart and conscience.

Fred received the call to office of the Minister-Secretary of the International Congregational Council in Geneva in 1968, a post he held until 1970 when he became an executive secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. His period in Geneva involved many other roles including staff member of the World Council of Churches working on ‘Cantate Domino’ – an international and ecumenical hymnal.

A decade of work based in Switzerland ended in 1978 when Fred was appointed as Moderator of the West Midlands Province of the United Reformed Church. In 1985, he became team minister of the Central (Ecumenical) Church, Swindon, and minister of Penhill United Reformed Church.

From 1993 to 1997, Fred combined his busy life of travel and public speaking with the role of Secretary of the Churches’ Human Rights Forum and eventually retired to the Lake District.

• On October 4, 2009, I received the difficult news of the death of my colleague and dear friend. Fred and I enjoyed a profoundly rich and creative bond of kindred-spirited friendship. For many years, we travelled together offering leadership for countless workshops, concerts, worship services and conferences.  RK