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Obituary: The Revd Margaret Green

30 October 2020

Correspondents write:

THE Revd Margaret Elizabeth Green was the eldest of the six children of Stanley and Muriel Farrant-Russell. As a surgeon and Christian missionary, Stanley helped to set up and run a mission hospital in Mohnyin, Burma. Muriel was a missionary nurse, and Stanley’s second wife — his first wife, after whom Margaret was named, died shortly after the couple’s arrival in Burma. The family fled from Burma to India, ahead of the invading Japanese army in 1942, and lived their until their return to England in 1947.

After schooling in Bromley, Margaret worked in various youth leadership posts for churches around Kent and the East End of London, before attending Bible college in Oxford, and later college in Leicester.

It was in Leicester that Margaret met Peter; they were both training as youth workers. Peter came from a long line of Sheffield steel workers, and was a somewhat unexpected choice for the daughter of an eminent surgeon, but she accepted his proposal without hesitation.

They married in Orpington on 21 January 1967, and began their married life working as youth leaders in Bristol, before moving north to run the youth club in Denaby Main, a mining village in South Yorkshire. Their first son was born in 1968. A second son and a daughter followed over the next two and a half years.

Peter and Margaret and their three children spent the next eight years living in a rambling old rectory in the little village of Hooton Roberts in South Yorkshire. Margaret continued to work part-time in the youth club and helped in the village church, besides looking after her young family.

She had a strong creative streak, and from childhood was a prolific maker of clothes, furnishings, and soft toys. One of her earliest was a much-loved rag doll for her little sister; many of her famous wombles are still in active service.

Her sewing machine was one of her most treasured possessions, and her repertoire extended to clerical vestments, which were much in demand — each one unique, and beautifully embroidered with winding leaves and tongues of flame.

A lifelong Christian, Margaret had always been involved in the Church of England, and had striven to serve in the most senior posts available to women at the time. In 1978, the position of Parish Worker became available at All Saints’, Ecclesall, Sheffield, where the family moved. Margaret was now a full-time and active member of the ministry team, ministering and preaching at services. She was admitted as a deaconess in 1984 and ordained deacon in 1987.

She was a consumate and engaging story-teller, and her sermons were invariably illustrated with enormous, polystyrene visual aids. While eminently approachable and friendly, she also had a way of peering over her glasses which had a highly unnerving effect on children, siblings, and bishops alike.

In 1988, Peter developed cancer and died, aged just 48. Margaret stayed on in Sheffield for two more years before starting afresh at St James’s, Balby in Doncaster. When the Church finally voted to allow the ordination of women, Margaret was in the first wave to be ordained into the priesthood, in 1994. From childhood, Margaret had always displayed a strongly independent nature, which came to the fore after Peter’s death. For companionship, she bought a pair of muscovy ducks which accompanied her on her parish rounds in the back of her Reliant Robin. Later came her dogs, Shimmie and Toda, both much loved rescue dogs.

She made friends quickly, often in surprising circumstances. In preparation for a visit from Orthodox Jewish friends, she decided to try to locate a kosher butcher, and so opened the phone book and called the first person she found named “Cohen”. The result of the long conversation that followed was that Margaret and her friends were invited for dinner at the Cohens, who became lifelong friends.

After retirement, and in declining health, in 2014, Margaret moved for the final time, to Newcastle, where she bought a house near to her new church, Holy Trinity, Jesmond, where she was an active and much-loved member of the congregation.

Margaret died peacefully at home on 21 August, aged 85. She is survived by her three children, Jonathan, Stephen, and Rebecca.

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