Obituary: Pauline Morrell

by
25 October 2019

Gillian Murray writes:

I FIRST met Pauline in 1983 at a meeting in Church House, Westminster, called by Frank Field MP. This meeting of 28 desperately sad divorced and separated wives of clergy led to the founding of Broken Rites.

From 1983, we met at the group’s annual meetings, and our local get-togethers in London and the south-east. The southern group often met at her home in London, and, later, in Lewes, where I stayed with her several times. We talked a lot, pottered, and went to church. She was such good company: she had a sharp wit and sense of humour, and we laughed a lot. Both of us had much- loved children and grandchildren. Sadly, once she moved to Devon we gradually lost touch.

The start of our friendship was Broken Rites. This group came together when Mr Field became aware of the plight of deserted clergy wives who found themselves ignored by the Church. In The Story of Broken Rites: The first 20 years, he wrote: “I placed a letter in the two church papers, asking clergy families to make contact if their marriage had broken up . . . [and] to participate in a questionnaire which aimed to illustrate how big the issue was, and what kind of support had been offered to both parties. . . .

“The responses surprised me in three ways. First, nearly a hundred people completed the questionnaire. The second and third surprises were connected: all those completing the questionnaire were women. All of them told the same tale of a Vhurch so embarrassed by what had happened that they were brutally ignored.”

After Frank’s report, “Walking by on the Other Side”, those who responded were invited to a meeting in London. Frank wrote again: “In those very early days three people were instrumental in bringing Broken Rites into existence. Pauline Morrell, Isabel Ward and Pauline Wood (later Druiff) were the catalysts and very quickly Broken Rites’s ethos became apparent. It was going to be a self-help organisation which extended friendship to families traumatised by the break-up of a clergy marriage. It was also going to use the information it gained from helping wives to campaign for change . . . and it was going to be ecumenical.”

Pauline and her friend Pauline Wood (who died in 2018) were joint honorary secretaries at the start, and I know how hard they worked in those early days — literally day and night. Much later, I was responsible for archiving hundreds of heart-breaking letters from deserted clergy wives, all of which were responded to. Broken Rites grew very fast. The hard work of everyone involved caused a gradual change — in the House of Bishops, the Church charities, the Church Commissioners, and many other ways. Both Paulines worked at Church House, a big advantage for knowing people and networking. Their work, and the work of everyone involved at that time and since , has made an enormous difference to the lives of divorced and separated clergy wives, and the way in which the Church and society at large perceives them.

Pauline helped to change the world. She fought for justice and recognition for women whose plight the Churches ignored. It is a battle that has been won on many fronts, but Broken Rites still has work to do in a society that is very different now from 1983, but in which clergy marriages continue to fall apart.

Without Broken Rites, I would never have known, loved, and admired Pauline. She was a good friend, a devoted sister and mother, and a stalwart for what she believed in, all underpinned by her Christian faith. I am so glad that I knew her.

Pauline Morrell died at the end of May.

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