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Confirmed at 99: ‘never too late’

15 February 2019


Left to right: Joyce Town, the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, and the Revd Hazel O’Sullivan

Left to right: Joyce Town, the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, and the Revd Hazel O’Sullivan

WHEN Joyce Town said “yes” to confirmation, aged 99, it was not the first time she had been asked.

“I had been asked on many occasions before and I had always said ‘no’, because I didn’t feel it was necessary,” she said on Tuesday. “But this time somehow I said ‘yes’.”

Confirmed on 3 February at St Mary of Nazareth, West Wickham, by the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, Mrs Town had blazed something of a trail, the Priest-in-Charge of St Francis of Assisi and St Mary of Nazareth, West Wickham, the Revd Hazel O’Sullivan, said. “The biggest impact is that other people have seen Joyce and thought ‘Oh, yes, it is never too late to do anything at all, really.’”

Baptised at four weeks old, Mrs Town attended St George the Martyr, Southwark, as a child, and was married in church during the Second World War, but found in the following years that a busy life kept her from church. At the age of 83, she decided to seek out her parish church, but feared that walking to the top of a hill to reach it would become too difficult over time.

But St Francis of Assisi, West Wickham, was on a bus route, she discovered.

“It happened to be open on the day I arrived there, and the Vicar came running down the aisle to greet me, and I was so happy about that that I then went on the Sunday and have been going ever since.”

The church was “so friendly and happy,” she said, and the confirmation service had “felt very solemn. I was happy to be involved in it and express my feelings.”

Mrs O’Sullivan said that Mrs Town had, until recently, sung in the church choir for many years.

“As you get older, you start to think more about faith, I think,” she said. “There are other older people that have started coming to church, in my experience, who have really grown quite quickly in faith, because it has more meaning. . . I don’t think we should write people off, whatever their age.”

Her message to those she encouraged to consider confirmation was that it was “the next step of your journey of faith. Rather than seeing confirmation as the end, but as the next step: a stepping stone to doing something more.”

Mrs Town was a reminder that “you are never too old to do something,” she said. Those of her age brought “a certain wisdom and understanding. . . At 99 you can understand what somebody of 50 is going through, what somebody of 30 is going through. . . It means that inter-generational discussion can happen, which if you just keep yourself to yourself with others of the same age, you just can’t have.”

Mrs Town will celebrate her 100th birthday in May.

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