I am finding a lot of interesting stuff amongst my late father’s papers. A letter has come to light, written to my daughter, following my parents’ golden wedding anniversary in 1998. She and her husband had arranged a secret party for them, attended by the wider family and some of their good friends. It was a wonderfully enjoyable time!
Among these good friends was a couple who had attended my father’s church in Downham, near Bromley, when he was priest-in-charge of St Barnabas’ church there in the 1950s. They wrote this:
‘I thought it would be nice for you as a grandchild to know what an amazing ministry their time with us at Downham had been.
The fact was, that to many of us they were the first modern married couple we had witnessed. I do not think that they realized then or now, their influence and effect on our young lives.
Most of us had come from families where it was traditional for the husband’s role to be sheltered from child care … and housework. Not only were they a good example of Christian married life, showing us how to have disagreements with each other in love, but they also taught us to have faith when we had practical needs and to care for each other in the church at all times.
The youth work that they encouraged was ahead of its time (self-programming youth work was to become popular 10 years later) and our first brush with debating and politics was in the club setting.
Above all we were guided by Philip to see that it was important to God what we did with our lives, and that our success as a Christian should not be measured in position and wealth. You only have to look at the range of careers that many of us at St Barnabas followed, to see that this lesson was taken to heart.
However, as you yourself obviously know, their other great achievement shared by us at St Barnabas and so evident on Saturday, is their great love of people and their ability to create a sense of family. This is what they gave to us in their time at Downham, and this is why 20-30 of us retain this family connection across the country.
Their golden years were our golden years, because we were touched by their love for each other.
You have remarkable grandparents. I am sure that you are very proud of them.’
I feel very touched by this wonderful letter, and the amazing legacy my parents left with people which lasted for nearly 50 years.