Michael was a founding member of Sanctuary in Chichester and brought to it well over two decades of experience of work supporting refugees through what became known as Friends Without Borders in Portsmouth, which he also set up and led across that time. He was Mayor of Chichester from 2009 to 2011 – a citizen known and respected across political and other divides.
For a man of such prodigious energy he was remarkably gentle in manner – considered in his opinions while at the same time passionate about freedom and justice, fairness and truth in a fractured world. Patience and kindness were two of his many hallmarks, along with deep compassion for suffering fellow human beings – which he consistently expressed in sustained action. It is to Michael that we owe the existence and fine work of the Chichester Welfare Trust. He set this up to support people in Chichester who had fallen on hard times or were victims of growing inequality – which he could not abide. To Michael compassion was and remains indivisible – he believed we could not pick and choose the kind of people towards whom we direct compassion.
Michael was a Quaker and a scholar of the history of the Quakers especially in Chichester. His life and work embodied Quaker values – even to the point of “Conscience before the Law” – not that Michael was anything but a careful law abiding citizen all his life. Always an active seeker after truth he was open about his sexual orientation. He did not believe in loud statements – it was for him more about quietly being true to himself as to others. He ‘spoke the truth in love’. In spite of his strong convictions as a Friend he was the epitome of tolerance and respect for people of all faiths. He held that respect was due as a right to all human beings – and he had a crystal clear view of what was meant by ‘respect’.
Sanctuary owes more to Michael’s guidance and influence than can easily be known – especially in its early days when we had to feel our way forwards tentatively yet with a sense of urgency.
Michael died from an aggressive cancer early in the autumn. Strange to say we won’t miss him – for his memory, his compassion and kindness, his love and gentleness are all still present. The power of his life remains.
– Roger Pask
One thought on “Michael Woolley 1944 to 2021”
It’s sad to hear about Michael’s passing but his compassion and respect for all lives on as his legacy. He was also supportive in the field of education and disability and he and his values will be remembered fondly by those who met him.