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Gladys Aylward recalled by those who met her

23 November 2012


From the Revd Sister Hazel
Sir, - How marvellous to know the date of Gladys Aylward's departure to China (Letters, 19 October). I have never forgotten the day when she came, in, I think, 1946, to Somerset Place Methodist Church, Teignmouth.

The church was full, and I imagine that she was much in demand everywhere to tell her story. She did not talk so much about her remarkable journey, immortalised in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, as about the way in which God had led her on her journey, although she did speak of some of the great challenges that she faced, such as going alone into a violent prison riot where no one else would go. The Mandarin said to her: "Go. You believe your God will protect you . . ." She also spoke of her work to stop the custom of binding little girls' feet.

Our vast pulpit, in which I used to think it would be quite possible to have a family picnic, emphasised the small figure, in Chinese dress, hair plaited up around her head, talking with such fervour of all that had befallen her, from her time in domestic service, to her rejection by the China Inland Mission; of her vivid conversations with God, after which she decided to read the Bible right through to try and discover what he had in mind for her.

"An ark, Lord, what can I do with an ark?" she cried. He called her to China, and she had absolute faith that what God was asking of her would come about by his direct help and guidance - as it did.

She went on to challenge us all, young and old, as she leant over the pulpit like a little brown bird, and said: ". . . And don't you think that I didn't want to marry and have children, because I did."

I did not know that my path would lead to religious profession as an Anglican Sister, but she set my feet on the path that Sunday. Perhaps now I can acknowledge the power of her faith to touch those she met, of whose number I am but one.

Sisterhood of St Etheldreda,
Associate Sisters of the Community of St Andrew
Paddock House, 6 Linford Lane
Willen, Milton Keynes MK15 9DL

From Prebendary David J. Nash
Sir, - I fully sympathise with Colin Nevin's desire to commemorate Gladys Aylward. Although she may have sailed from Liverpool, she was a child of the London Borough of Edmonton.

Her childhood home was once adorned by a commemorative blue plaque, and the local comprehensive school is named in her honour. It was there that I saw a fine play about her life written and pro-duced by the Revd John Hall, then Vicar of St Aldhelm's, Edmonton.

Perhaps a fitting way to remember Gladys Aylward today would be to include her in the Common Worship Calendar of holy men and women, where she would join a small but select group drawn from the Free Churches.

36 Birkbeck Road, Enfield
Middlesex EN2 0DX

From Gladys M. Rixson
Sir, - Mr Colin Nevin is full of praise for Gladys Aylward and her great work in China.

I have a slightly jaundiced memory of her, having encountered her, pre-1952, when she visited the branch library in Edmonton in which I worked. I think she was visiting members of her family who lived near by.

I cannot remember her query for information, but can remember very clearly her very rude and aggressive manner towards one of my colleagues behind the library counter. I was very shocked when I realised who she was, and, sadly, have been left with that meeting in my memory rather than her work in China.

Mr Nevin will be pleased to know that a new school was subsequently built and named Aylward School. I am sure it will be marking that 80th anniversary.

3 Excalibur Court
52 Galahad Road
London N9 9XF

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