Diverse religious and spiritual traditions have been a key part of Humphrey’s life, spanning many different Christian denominations on his life’s journey as well as exploring Islam and Christianity in Africa.
Humphrey’s grandparents belonged to the Salvation Army in New Zealand. Humphrey became a Quaker as a young man in Jordan. Later, he also became an Anglican lay reader at St. Mary’s, Hampton, a Church of England parish in London. After Humphrey moved to Newchurch in the Welsh borders in 1986 he became ordained as a non-stipendary minister in the (Anglican) Church in Wales. Because of the demands of his academic career, he underwent training for ministry at London University’s Heythrop College, with its roots in the Catholic church.
As well as preaching many sermons in the local churches in his Welsh parish, Humphrey also helps out with preaching at the Ebenezer Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Chapel across the road from his home.
He helped set up an annual Kilvert pilgrimage around four local churches in the Welsh borders and edited a book of the local vicar’s memoirs: “the funniest clergyman I have ever known”. “The theology is thoughtful, sometimes off-beat and challenging.”
For many years Humphrey took a keen interest in monastic practice in Britain: with his wife, Helga, and later with his religious studies students (see here and here), he visited many monasteries and convents in Britain. Humphrey and Helga also translated poems and meditations on the Holy Land by a (Catholic) Benedictine monk.
And throughout his adult life, Humphrey’s academic career focused on the history of Islam in Black Africa. This involved teaching about Islam at SOAS to students of many faiths, including Muslims. It also involved research on conversions between religions in Africa (see here and here).
In the early 1960s, at the very beginning of his career, Humphrey worked with Palestinian refugees in Jordan, which remained such an important memory for both Humphrey and Helga (their second son was born in Jordan). The Rt Rev Kenneth Cragg, later Assistant Bishop in Jerusalem, served as an inspiration; Kenneth engaged in extensive research and theology around Muslim-Christian relations.
One of Humphrey’s early publications was on religious toleration among Muslims in West Africa, published in Patterns of Prejudice, a journal of the Institute of Jewish Affairs. Later, in 1983, he spent time at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, at the request of one of his students, Nehemiah Levtzion, with whom he edited a book on rural and urban Islam in West Africa.