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18 July 2014

Formidable, common-sense approach to ministry: the Revd Beryl Morgan

Formidable, common-sense approach to ministry: the Revd Beryl Morgan

The Revd Alison Dobell writes:

THE Revd Beryl Morgan dedicated her life to the service of the Church of England in the diocese of Lichfield. Last October, she moved into residential care on the very weekend when she celebrated 50 years since she had been made a deaconess.

A sense of vocation came early to Beryl. When she was about eight years old, the vicar in her church asked: "Which of you little boys might become a priest?" "What about us little girls?" was the young Beryl's indignant response.

In 1953, she started training as a parish worker. Six years later, she began her deaconess training in Hindhead in Surrey. She then worked in the parish of Rickerscote, near Stafford, where her ministry was especially appreciated; she helped people explore their faith, and how God might be calling them.

Beryl held many posts in the diocese during her 50 years in formal ministry. In 1970, she was appointed Head Deaconess, a post that she held for 17 years. These were challenging times for women in ministry.

"Formidable" is a word that comes up consistently when talking of Beryl; the result of her passion and commitment. She saw it as part of her job to care for women's health and happiness, housing, salary and pension. She wanted women to flourish, and not be lonely, as woman's ministry was not a career that could be combined with marriage at that time.

Running alongside this, Beryl was also Diocesan Lay Ministry Adviser,a member of the General Synod, an Advisory Council for the Church's Ministry selector, and Chaplain to the Girls' Friendly Society.

In 1980, Beryl served in the parish of Holy Trinity, Willenhall, as a deaconess, and then as a deacon from 1987. There, she helped plant a new church among the people of Allens Rough, and was known as a caring, encouraging pastor.

It was here, in 1990 or 1991, that I first met Beryl. I worked with her for a year, as I explored my own vocation, and I, like many others she helped and nurtured, am very grateful for her common-sense approach, and her love of the Church of England, expressed through the daily Office and holy communion.

At that time, the reality of women's ordination was coming ever closer: Beryl was an active member of MOW, and was at Westminster Central Hall when the vote finally went through.

It was a joyous day in Lichfield Cathedral when Beryl's vocation was finally fulfilled, as she was ordained priest by Bishop Keith Sutton. Beryl had by now just retired, but she had a very fruitful priestly ministry at St Bartholomew's, Penn, for seven years.

It was a great sadness to Beryl that her only brother died in his early twenties, but she and her friend Irene shared a house for many years. Irene was an excellent cook, and her delicious cakes were much appreciated by the women's groups that used to meet at their home.

Beryl and Irene also enjoyed many adventurous and varied holidays, from towing their trailer tent around France, to enjoying the terracotta warriors in China.

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