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Sunday 12 November 2006

Fr Stephen's Last Sunday at St Mary's Church

At Prestbury War Memorial, Remembrance Sunday
At Prestbury War Memorial, Remembrance Sunday

Fr Stephen and Vicky listening to Marion Beagley’s poem of tribute
Fr Stephen and Vicky listening to Marion Beagley’s poem of tribute (below)

Photographs by  Nigel Woodcock and David Price

Father Stephen’s Farewell

These are some moments from Father Stephen’s life,
Based on factoids and pictures, supplied by his wife.

In nineteen forty, in the month of September,
A baby was born whom we all will remember.
A brother for Margaret, Stephen by name,
And here are some things that have brought him to fame.

He was brought up in Derbyshire - amongst hills and dales,
And after his schooling he joined other males
At Nottingham University - where Theology he read,
Ere training in Oxford to earn his daily bread.
First as a teacher of Religious Education,
And then he was called to a different vocation.
As a C of E Minister - in various places,
Aldershot - Wantage - Holt - to name just three cases.
His reason for Ministry was not always ‘his flock’,
But he liked the idea of wearing a frock.

His marriage to Vicky in nineteen sixty six,
Was shared with World Cup success - a definite fix.
He’d loved and adored her for many a year,
And their marriage was blest with four children, so dear.
These children are Kate, Alex , Chris and Anna,
Things were much cheaper then - you got four for a tanner.

In the parish of Holt he became Rural Dean,
And touring the countryside, often was seen
With Vicky in tow - he can’t function without her,
And relies on her backing - else he’d be a disaster.
Whilst there he was made Canon of Norwich Cathedral,
Then the Bishop offered him Prestbury - a place territorial.

Some eleven years since he arrived in our midst,
Bringing dogs and the family - no longer kidz,
They had all grown up nicely and careers they held down,
So he, Vicky and Kate made their home in this town.

Vicky took a teaching position at first,
By travelling to Abingdon - it could have been worse.
But later as Housemistress at Cheltenham Ladies’ College,
Where she teaches her pupils sound general knowledge.
But Stephen he settled to life in this place,
Which, after Holt, was a quite different pace.
For, coming from Holt in the country near Norwich,
He had always existed on fresh fruit and porridge.
In his kitchen at home on his round breakfast table,
You’ll always find Quaker Oats displayed on the label.
But Prestbury people were harder to please,
As they didn’t do porridge - only stately cream teas.
We were quite a challenge which he took up like a pro,
And he’s overcome each problem - or at least - had a go.

He followed Norwich City as at football they played,
With Delia Smith leading them with food she had made.
He’d give us their score as she cooked fish in batter,
But we support Cheltenham, so Norwich scores didn’t matter.
With Bill Riley, on Sundays, amidst all the hassle,
He’d compare football league tables, Norwich or Newcastle.
Dear Bill was our treasurer, he held the purse strings,
And paid all the bills, did accounts and other things.

At remembering names Stephen really was great,
But for a 7.30 meeting, he’d get there by eight.
Excuses for lateness, and each was good reason,
Either snow, rain or thunder, depending on season.
He chaired the committees and kept us in order,
Carried bunches of keys, like a prison cell warder.
He soon got the picture and settled in well,
And he got himself noticed by Diocesan cell.
Was promoted to Rural Dean, for the whole of the town,
With clergy abounding, whom he never let down.
He sorted their problems and led them along,
With prayers and with meetings and even a song.

Father Michael came to work with him, handsome but shy,
And soon Stephen relied on him - I understand why,
Because Michael is methodical, tidy and quiet,
Whereas Stephen is the opposite and often on a diet.
He brought his wife Gill and Simon and Anna,
Who fitted in well, in immaculate manner.

This team worked together with various wardens,
Doing fetes, quiz and fund-raising - and Open Gardens.
His favourite was pudding evenings, his record, sixteen,
So as not to offend ‘If you see what I mean’.
There was Bob Lyle and Ken who served him for ages,
With Eileen and Peter, all in history’s pages.

He baptised many babies, performed many a marriage,
And waved to the couples as they left in their carriage.

He was again made a Canon, in Gloucester’s fair city,
Double Canons are rare - but it fits in with this ditty.
He’s worked hard and long, amongst all of his flock,
Be they Tom, Dick or Harry, or even a Jock.
Or Mary or Margaret or Lilian or Fred,
They all were his flock and by him they were led.

At the racecourse he’s Chaplain and often is seen,
Putting on a few bob on a horse of The Queen.
He loves to go racing, enjoys all the commotion,
But as for riding himself, he hasn’t a notion.
He even appeared in a feature in the press,
Actually The Sun - as a punter, no less.
Where with Father Michael they studied the form,
Of the horses that were racing - Red Rum or Desert Storm.
It could have been worse, just imagine page three,
With Stephen and Michael, our centre fold clergy.

He also was the Chaplain to St John, the first aid
Providers at functions - a job that’s unpaid.

With Les Godwin as Mayor, in the Cheltenham Borough,
He became Mayor’s Chaplain, at which he was thorough,
Doing his duty at each civic event,
And going with Les, wherever he was sent.

As Rural Dean I worked with him - typing and stuff,
And I found him quite trying, but I called his bluff.
’Cos his filing was dreadful, strewn all over the floor,
On tables and chairs, even blocking the door.

I just couldn’t cope with the chaos and mess,
As he asked for some letters or someone’s address.
It might be in this pile or that one over there,
Or even conceivably under the chair.
How Kay puts up with him I do not know,
She deserves a gold medal - or several in a row.

He always offered me his car, to drive whilst he was away,
Forgetting to mention his dogs came too, could I walk them every day?
The first time I performed this task, I could only find three,
I texted his phone, he’d forgotten to mention, he’d buried one under a tree.

There were curates and clergy, some young and some old,
Some easy, some difficult, some hot and some cold.
But his ministry flourished and his flock came to know,
That he loved us all dearly - and many seeds did he sow.
To help us to grow and to spread the Good News,
Of Jesus our Saviour - as we sat in our pews.

He was a lover of music, and good organists are rare,
Dear Malcolm served him faithfully, he showed the choir care,
As he led them in their worship, as they sang great hymns of old,
And everybody loved him, his dear memory we all hold.
Then Peter joined as organist, how pleased we were to see,
That he also cares about the choir, as they sing and chant with glee.

Then along came a youth worker, a young man called Andy,
Who joined us with Sharon - two for one - that was handy!
A new family worship then came into being,
Called Celebrate! - fantastic - new families we’re seeing,
To hear of God’s love to us, through Jesus His Son,
A much needed service, followed by coffee and a bun.

He’s had his share of servers, Raymund here and All Saints Jack,
Who kept him well in order - he daren’t answer back.
They knew each rule and bylaw - each step along the way,
They made sure Stephen listened and, what is more, obey.

He led pilgrimages to Walsingham, Compostela and Rome,
And travelling with Stephen was just like home from home.
With the best of hotels and a few bottles of wine,
To quench our dry throats and to have a good time.
But there was still a serious side, which some amongst us saw,
As he pointed out Cathedrals, great paintings and much more.
We walked the routes together of the saintly men of old,
In our rooms we drank hot toddies, when we felt the cold.
And now there is a grandson - young Alex he is called,
Who at birth, like his granddad now, was blue eyed and bald.

Now the time is upon us to say our fond farewells,
Perhaps it would be fitting to have some incense and some bells.
But he’d much rather finish without a great fuss,
And if it were possible catch the next bus
To Norfolk, his chosen place of retirement,
But first he must listen to one last requirement.
We love you, dear Stephen and will miss you no end,
I know you’ll remember us all - like the friend
That you’ve been to all of us - in trouble and joy,
So here is a small token for that little boy,
Who came from the dales, where he saw many sheep,
And we hope that our memory you’ll always keep

As you shepherd a new flock of sheep - on Bev’s field.
May this token and cheque bring forth a good yield.
Please use it as fitting, for whatever is best,
In your new life without us - may you both be blest.
With a long and happy future and wherever you may be,
Remember us kindly back here in Prestbury.

Marion Beagley

Fr Stephen reads a book of signatures of the parishioners
Fr Stephen reads a book of signatures of the parishioners

Fr Stephen's Last Sunday at St Nicolas'

Eucharist of Thanksgiving for Ministry and Marriage

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