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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr David's sermon

21st June 2004

Fr David Shepherd

Funeral Address for Gwen Palmer RIP

To begin an epitaph from a C4th gravestone from Asia Minor, one I have shared with many of you before: -

'Here sleeps the blessed Chione who has found Jerusalem for she prayed much.'

It is a touching thought that the memory of a peasant woman's deep faith in God has survived all those long centuries until today. We know nothing else about Chione, only that her neighbours were so impressed with her faith that they were sure she was now in the heavenly Jerusalem.

That epitaph seems a good one for Gwen; we can be sure that she too has found Jerusalem for she prayed much. Gwen was a person of deep faith, a faith that found its expression here at St. Matthew's for over 30 years.

Gwen moved here in 1971 when she retired from Bassett's Sweet Factory. Prior to that date she lived in Wood Green Essex, having been born in the very different world of 1911. Like many women of her generation she cared for her elderly mother, remaining single all her life. She remained close to her brothers and sisters Les, Jim, Joan and Eileen. She was fond of her nephews and nieces, Jim, Leslie, Janet, Janet, Margie and Derek and through them her great and great-great nephews and nieces too. She once paid a six-month visit to her Australian relatives, going by sea but declined to emigrate herself.

So what of her faith that sustained her going into a positive and fulfilled old age? I've thought of three things for us to give special thanks to God for as we remember Gwen.

  1. She did the flowers. For many years Gwen arranged the flowers in Church each Sunday, giving physical expression to her love of God's house and her belief in the beauty of holiness and well ordered worship. It's something we can easily take for granted (especially us men!) and yet we notice the lack if it is not done.
  2. She organised the Bible Reading Fellowship Notes. In this way Gwen helped others to share her belief that the Bible should be read and understood as fully as possible as the bedrock of faith.
  3. She prayed. Many dismiss the Church as an organisation for elderly ladies. In so doing they greatly underestimate the praying power of such devout women. They keep the Church going, for a church that doesn't pray soon dies. Gwen was a member of the Thursday prayer group for many years. She was of a regular communicant on Sundays and Thursdays ringing the bell at the latter. When infirmity prevented her from attending Church she continued to receive the sacrament at home. By means of a tape of the service she was able to be with us in absence. She also enjoyed the many broadcast services. I am sure that it was Gwen's life of prayer that gave her that positive outlook on life that continued until the end and also helped her to face her own death.

For our reading, prompted by Phyllis, I have chosen St. Paul's hymn of love from I Corinthians Chapter 13. We can be sure that Gwen's faith, hope and charity have now found their fulfilment. Childish things have come to an end. Now she can see fully, face to face, now she knows fully even as she has been fully known.

Thanks be to God.


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Last updated 22/06/04 07:00 Author: David Shepherd