Quite often I pass by the churchyard of the former St Saviour’s Church on Upper Brook Street. I rarely walk in. Today, on a lockdown walk, I did.
I paused at the grave of Mary Hale. Mary was born Mary Morville in 1837, and married William Hale in 1865. She died in 1903. In telling of Mary’s death the then Rector of St Chrysostom’s wrote ‘In Mrs Hale we lose one who had attended S. Chrysostom’s since the opening of the Church, and had been associated with all its undertakings; we are all the poorer for the wothdrawal of her genial and kindly presence, her cheerful encouragement and help, and shall keep bright the memory of her good and faithful example.’
Mary lived in Cecil Street, Moss Side, and when she died her three daughters, who never married, continued living there, together with two elderly aunts. The daughters continued faithfully attending St Chrysostom’s, and Edith Maude, the most recent daughter to die passed away in 1959. It is remarkable to think that between them Mary Hale and her daughters, were part of St Chrysostom’s church life between 1877 and 1959, 82 years.
As I paused at Mary’s grave it seemed appropriate to say a prayer for her, and to thank God for her, and for the many women who have faithfully attended churches, and especially our own church, through the years and through changing times in our country and in the Church.
Mary’s faithfulness and ‘kindly presence’ is echoed in many women of the church, and is an inspiration to many. Whatever the days brought, such women were there, and indeed are there, supporting the church, holding on to their faith and being kindly and encouraging to others. Their work may not have made history books, or newspapers, but it is such faithfulness that builds up the community, and the local church, and it is on the foundations of their dependability, generosity and faithfulness that the church builds today. They are inspirations to us all.
As I stood there thinking of Mary and others like her I remembered how recently at church we have been sharing examples of inspiring women. What has been striking is how many of those women have been women of a previous generation or two within a family.
For us, at St Chrysostom’s, Mary Hale is an inspiring woman who, though of a previous generation still worships with us before God and still encourages us by her example and by her prayers. I, and I hope others, are inspired by her example and by her faithfulness.
When I trained to be a priest at college on a saints an antiphon was often sung during Morning Prayer, it was a quaotation from Scripture. Quietly, today, I sang it at Mary’s grave on behalf of us all at St Chrysostom’s: Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much, says the Lord.
(This is the latest entry in Fr Ian’s lockdown diary)