“Hidden Saints”

In November we remember the saints, past and present, and our own call to live holy lives as God’s modern-day saints.  The Greek word for saints is an interesting one.  It is the word “hagios” and means “most holy thing” so a saint is a holy person.  Not that any of us can claim to be holy in our own right!  We are made holy by Christ’s dying for us. That is exactly what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:11 that “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

If I asked you who was a saint, you might answer Saint Nicolas, or Saint Birinus, but if we take seriously the teaching of the New Testament, we are all saints, made holy by God and set apart to live holy lives.  Some people in our church community were interviewed and although the questions posed to them were identical, each story is very different – as it should be!  Being holy is not about being perfect or trying to be someone we are not, but about offering who we are to God and letting God transform us and use the unique people we are and the gifts we have to his glory.

Phil Taylor, Church warden, St Nicolas: I’ve worshipped at St Nicolas for 22 years.  I sing in the choir and have done two stints as church warden, covering 10½ years in total – not consecutive of course!  I take a particular interest in the fabric as others don’t seem to want to do that.

My Christian faith became significant at senior school around confirmation time.  It was a boarding school and I was impressed by the faith of the Headmaster, which seemed real.

Professionally I spent 35½ years “watching paint dry”! As part of the Research and Development team for Dulux Paint, I was involved in developing new paints such as the move from solvent borne paint to water borne paint.  Now I’m enjoying retirement.

My faith had an impact on my work life because I see the world as God’s creation and chose to work on projects that benefitted the environment – such as the one described.  I also tried to be an understanding manager to my staff.

To sum up in a few words what being a follower of Jesus Christ means to me, it is about trying to be faithful to Jesus’ teaching to “love one another as I have loved you” in actions and words.

Nicki Jeffries, St Nicolas: I’ve worshipped at St Nicolas for 20 years, and serve on PCC as well as being a sides person.  In the past I was very involved with children’s work, and for the past couple of years I’ve been particularly involved with fund raising – especially the summer fete.  I used to read the lesson but found it stressful!

My faith became more significant about 14 years ago. I work as a public health nurse, as part of a specialist programme called the Family Nurse Partnership, which works particularly with teenage mothers and their children. My faith is in every part of what I do with clients and colleagues.  I want to lead my life as close as I can to what Jesus would do. That’s a big ask, but something worth striving for.  Having a faith also makes my work manageable because it makes huge demands both emotionally and physically.

To sum up in a few words what being a follower of Jesus Christ means to me, it is about peace, following Jesus’ example, living as a disciple as best I can and using my gifts in God’s service.

Linda Beer, St Nicolas:  I’ve worshipped at St Nicolas for 17 years since I moved back to this area from Bournemouth.  I’m a sides person and welcomer.  I put flowers in the lady chapel and help with flower arranging for festivals.  You’ll often find me washing up in the kitchen, or giving lifts.  And I try to encourage my nephew and godson in church.

My Christian faith has always been there. My Dad had a strong faith and I still have and use his “prayer a day” book. 

Having left school at fifteen, I joined Satchwell Controls to work in the office and was fortunate to be sent to London to learn to operate the comptometer.  I ended up doing accounts and wages for Miller, Morris and Booker, and then with my husband and other family members ran a hotel for five years.  I also cared for my elderly parents and brought up two foster children.

Because my parents had such a strong faith in God, I always thought to myself that if it would upset Mum and Dad then it was better not to do it.

Being a follower of Jesus Christ is just part of my life.  I say my prayers, count my blessings and pray for others.

Sue Blore, Church Warden, St Anne’s: I’ve been worshipping at St Anne’s for about 10 years and have been church warden for the past 4 or 5.  With such a small congregation, as well as being church warden I act as treasurer, and help fund raise by serving Sunday cream teas through the summer months. I do whatever is needed!

My Christian faith has always been there. My family worshipped regularly and I can remember the special children’s service at the church at the end of the road and going to Sunday school.

Professionally I ran my own hairdressing business and then had a family, bringing up my two girls.  I was very involved with the schools they attended, being Chair of Governors at Lent Rise, and on the governing body at Burnham Upper School.  I served on the PTA in various schools, and also helped my husband, Howard, with the accounts for his business.  Latterly I worked in the accounts branch of a perfume department.

The impact of my faith is that I’ve always tried to be helpful and understanding towards others and to live as a Christian. That’s my way, but I also respect and value those around me who have other faiths.  I look for the points of contact.

To sum up what being a follower of Jesus Christ means to me, it means I’m thankful.  When I pray I always start by saying thank you for all the blessings I’ve had.  That isn’t always easy, but I do feel blessed.  

Janet Appleton, St Nicolas: I’ve been worshipping at St Nicolas for almost two years now, and was confirmed a year ago.  I’m on Deanery Synod and PCC, sometimes lead intercessions and help where I can.  I come to Connections, and enjoy being with other Christians, having the opportunity to think about such a wide variety of topics and share thoughts and feelings.

Just over two years ago I did an Alpha course at St Margaret’s church in Penn close to where I work and that’s when I became a Christian. 

I work in the toy industry as a quality assurance and compliance manager.  I have to make sure the products we sell are legal, safe and fit for purpose as well as being sourced responsibly.  My faith has made me less ambitious for professional success and made me realise that there are more important things in life than earning money and being promoted. It has also enabled me to support others more in the workplace, and is helping me create a better work/life balance.

Being a Christian makes me feel completely loved (by God) which in turn helps me love others more. 

Judy Norbron, St Nicolas: I’ve been worshipping at St Nicolas for over 50 years now.  My faith has been like a steady trickle all my life.  God’s behind everything. 

I worked for an insurance company when I first left school and still keep in touch with colleagues there. I gave that up to care for my two children and stepson and when they started school, I went to work as a dinner lady at St Nicolas and then as school cook providing lunches for 150 children every day.  I wanted to be home when they came home.  When Louise left home, I went to work at the Canadian Red Cross Hospital and when that closed, transferred to work at Wexham Park Hospital in the ante natal and gynae wards.

Faith is really my sense of conscience, prompting me to put things right when I make a mistake and I always ask God for help when I need it.  I encourage others to pray and to listen for the answers because God always answers.

I served as a church warden at St Nicolas, first with Barbara Smith, then on my own and then with Sally Hughes for 8 years. And after a break I served as warden again first with Richard and then with Phil.  I’m still involved with the social committee, and look after the churchyard and sidespeople’s rota.

Summing up in one sentence what being a follower of Jesus Christ means to me is a hard one!  It’s about going in the right direction, trying to keep things on an even keel, loving my family and feeling for other people.  I like helping people as much as I can.

Astrid Maddocks, St Nicolas: I’ve been worshipping at St Nicolas since 1970 when Peter and I first moved to Ellington Road.  It was probably in my late teens when my faith became a significant part of my life. I’d been brought up Presbyterian and then made my own choice to move to the Church of England because I liked the music, and my faith grew from there.

After Peter and I married we decided to wait before starting a family as we were both junior doctors and didn’t get a lot of time off.  However, eventually we decided we could manage on his salary and our first two children came along.  Then, feeling I needed some mental stimulation, I took a job in a family planning clinic in the evenings and during this time our next two children were born.  After that I was invited to open a second clinic, and my nurses’ teenage children would babysit my four to enable me to do that.  It was after that as the children grew older that we moved to Taplow and I trained to be a psychiatrist via the Oxford scheme.

Eventually I worked with Peter who was a consultant psychiatrist. We had a particular interest in rehabilitating people who were struggling with mental health issues, setting up half way houses to help them.

My faith seemed to grow stronger as Peter grew more and more ill.  He was always very devout and whilst I’d always believed, it was then I found myself depending more on God.  Most of our boys are practising Christians and I like to think we influenced that.

Now, of course, I’m just a regular worshipper, though I still sometimes help by putting out the coffee cups.  Peter and I were on the coffee rota for years and I used to help with teas in the Rectory garden.  I have a strong sense of belonging to St Nicolas.

If I had to sum up in one sentence what being a follower of Jesus Christ meant to me … it helps me to understand people and means I look to God for guidance with decisions.

Martin Uden: I’ve been worshipping at St Nicolas with my wife Fiona for about a year now.  My faith has always been there.  My parents were firm Anglicans and church and Sunday school attendance were a regular part of my life from childhood.  Of course, at times I have questioned, but my Christian faith is very much a part of me. I feel we lose so much as a country without Christianity at our heart.

I have been a diplomat serving all round the world, with a short stint at the UN, and am a Korean specialist.  My last major posting was as the British Ambassador to South Korea. I retired four years ago, and then spent two years with HSBC in Hong Kong and now do a variety of things, working with a couple of Korean organisations, for my old university, Queen Mary’s in London, and as trustee of USPG.

The worldwide Anglican communion meant a lot to us as we travelled.  No matter where in the world we were, we had the solace of communion, and were welcomed into the family of the church in every place.  It gave us a real sense of community amongst all the changes in our lives. 

After retirement I applied the post of secretary general at USPG and whilst I didn’t get that post I saw what the charity did and volunteered to be a trustee.  Now I am able to use my professional skills to help develop USPG and I find it enriching to have something in my Christian life that isn’t just about Sunday morning. The thing that most inspired me about USPG was its charitable aim to spread the Christian faith.  Yes, of course it builds hospitals and churches and digs wells around the world but it has a passion to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  This is the society that founded the church in Korea and that links back to my professional life. 

USPG wouldn’t describe itself as a missionary organisation in the traditional sense any more.  The letters now stand for UnitedSociety, Partners in the Gospel.  We partner with local churches to support them in projects they identify eg. helping children and mothers with AIDS in Zimbabwe.

As far as church involvement goes, I sing loudly in the congregation!  And I am a school governor at St Nicolas school.  I’m sure my involvement will develop over time as we continue to settle in and as my professional life settles down.

If I had to sum up in one sentence what being a follower of Jesus Christ means to me …  it’s about the whole of my life … living my life in the right way … doing the right thing in every situation … living in a way that when I look back, I can be rightly proud of how I’ve lived.

Peter Mitchell: I’ve been worshipping at St Nicolas for about seven months now.  I was brought up CofE and attended chapel and daily prayers as part of school life, but my faith became more significant to me when I married Esme.  I’m very fortunate to have her as my wife.  She became very involved at our last church and so my Christian ethos grew stronger.

Having worked briefly in the city, I followed my father into the army for 10 years with a regular commission, including serving in SE Asia and the Middle East. I then studied Estate Management before joining the National Trust, finally as the Director of that organisation in the southern part of Wales.  My faith was expressed in the concern I have for the Welsh People and trying to make the National Trust relevant to the needs of those who lived there.  For example, I was very conscious of the suffering in the valleys during the miners strikes, and their loss of identity.  I tried to sustain the heritage including through a project creating a living hamlet at Cwmdu. I also instigated a number of employment creation posts.

I’ve always been concerned for those less fortunate than myself and was aware from the age of 9, when we lived in Hong Kong in 1950, how privileged I was.  So I have a strong social conscience and follow my father’s teaching to treat everyone with respect. 

That finds particular expression now as a trustee of the charity Help 4 Forgotten Allieswhich is just a small charity helping the Karen and Chin people and other hill tribes in Burma, who served alongside us during the war and are largely forgotten by Britain.  They are deeply Christian and often persecuted and neglected by the majority Buddhist government there.  The elderly veterans and their families are so grateful not to have been forgotten and often ask after Elizabeth the Queen when we visit from the charity. One old veteran sang God save the King because of course it was George VI on the throne during the war.

Peter Mitchell, son of a British officer who fought in Myanmar, salutes a group of aging Karen veterans in Yangon during a visit in 2013. (Courtesy of Help 4 Forgotten Allies)

If I had to sum up in one sentence what being a follower of Jesus Christ means to me …

Jesus conduct was exemplary and what he stood for is what I want to stand for.  Being a follower for me is about trying to be good news, despite my own failings, and helping those who need it in this country and overseas.  And of course I pray for my family.