As many of you know, my mother-in-law recently passed away. She was a wonderful lady with tremendous personal qualities. It is a very hard loss as we pay tribute to her memory and explore what her legacy means for our lives.
A very important part of her life was her faith as a Methodist. To quote from her funeral service conducted by Mrs T. Tilley, lay preacher and family friend: “At the heart of who Sheila was is her faith, she was devoted and committed to worshipping her God both at Newhall, Stanton and particularly at Gresley Mission Room. Her faith was sure and steadfast, simple and true.”
Her commitment started as a child going to Sunday School at Newhall Wesleyan Chapel. She met her husband at a Chapel social event, raised a family suffused with the strong values of the Methodist faith and was an exemplary and stalwart member of the community. Only with her passing did I learn more about the scope of her dedication, there were meals on wheels, baking for special occasions and cake stalls at Stanton Chapel and Gresley Mission room, Guild, Luncheon club and Drop In just to cover a few of her activities as a pillar of the community. I never once heard her complain about anybody or anything that happened to her, fully subscribing to the doctrine that an individual’s fate is firmly in their hands, and achieved by their own choosing.
Talking to her friends after the funeral confidently echoed the sentiment that she was undoubtedly “today in heaven standing face to face with her Lord.”
Although her son moved to America, became Jewish, married and raised a Jewish family her faith had more than enough loving kindness to include this new part of her family. She always sent us a Rosh Hashana card and graciously accommodated our dietary requirements with a personal touch, always lovingly dishing up our favorite foods.
When I was young, if somebody in the community was a convert it was considered impolite to discuss this fact. But my hope is that our children who are secure in their Jewish identity will be able to acknowledge, draw strength from and be very proud of the Methodist side of their family. There is a linear relationship from her Methodist faith to her embodiment of personal responsibility, family loyalty, community and civic engagement. The faith provides the foundation.
Words of Psalm 121 which were used on the occasion of Sheila’s 80th birthday celebrations at Gresley Mission Room:
1. I lift up my eyes to the mountains —
where does my help come from?
2. My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3. He will not let your foot slip —
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4. indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5. The LORD watches over you —
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6. the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7. The LORD will keep you from all harm —
he will watch over your life;
8. the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.