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Daphne Wales

by
15 May 2015

Woman in a man's world: Daphne Wales, who worked for the Bank of England and chaired the General Synod's Board for Mission and Unity

Woman in a man's world: Daphne Wales, who worked for the Bank of England and chaired the General Synod's Board for Mission and Unity

John Chilvers writes:

DAPHNE WALES, who died on 20 March, aged 97, was a remarkable woman in what was still very much a man's world. She was recognised as such when the Archbishop of Canterbury awarded her the Cross of St Augustine at Lambeth Palace in October 1998.

He had first come across Daphne when she was Chairman of the General Synod's Board for Mission and Unity. There had been only one lay chairman before her, and no woman had served in that office. She had not only broken a mould, but had led the Board with imagination and flair.

Daphne had spent her early years in Suffolk, but, when the family later moved to Oxhey, she began a relationship with St Mary's, Watford, which was to last more than 60 years. She taught at the Sunday school, and was a leader in the Girl Guide movement, becoming a District Commissioner in her early twenties. She had been awarded a place at Cambridge University, but shortage of finance prevented her taking it up.

Instead, she joined the Bank of England on the secretarial side, and remained there for 37 years, rising to become one of the most senior women in the Bank. She was a founder-member of the Christian Union there, and was its secretary for nearly 30 years.

In that capacity, she invited leading Evangelical speakers to its meetings, and steadily broadened its range of activities to include weekend house-parties and overseas holidays each year, which she organised with great attention to detail.

In 1972, she took early retirement, in order to devote more time to the Church of England and the wider Church. A long-time supporter of the South American Missionary Society, she became its Vice-Chairman for eight years, and was remembered for her deep personal concern for "our missionaries" and their individual circumstances.

She was also a Governor of the Partnership for World Mission, and of Oak Hill Theological College. Besides chairing the Highway Trust, she acted as leader of many of the groups for Highways Holidays, including those each year for the Association that she formed for retired members of the bank's Christian Union.

Retiring from the General Synod in 1990 gave her more time to devote to activities of her local church. She continued to lead her Home Group, as she had for many decades, but also started "Business Fellowship" at St Mary's, a lunchtime group for Christians working in Watford.

"Formidable" was a word heard more than once in tributes to her, and it well described her ability to control vigorous discussions at the highest level. But all who came to know her recognised her deep concern for people and her genuine wish to help everyone she met. This continued well into her later years, which, from 2002, she deservedly spent in the ideal setting of Cedars Village, Chorleywood.

In the words of Lord Carey's tribute read out at her funeral, the thread running Daphne's work for the Church was mission. She was a woman of faith, with a personal knowledge of her Saviour Jesus and a desire to share him with others - and also one who enjoyed the normal pleasures of life and loved the company of others.

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