As many of you will know, the Grange Fellowship was founded in 1961 when four teenage girls, all students of Grace at Hammersmith County School for Girls in west London, UK, began to attend a weekly get together in our (Grace and Martin’s) home in Chiswick, west London. At these early meetings, Grace taught the girls how to cook and this was followed by a Bible Study.
Two of that original four became stalwart members of the Grange as it grew through the years. They were Janet Morris and Ann (Schonberger) King. Recently, Janet paid us a visit. Here is a picture of Grace greeting Janet on her arrival – September 17, 2017.
Ann King, like Grace and myself and a number of other Grangers, also ended up in Canada. Ann lives not too far away from us near Vancouver. She joined us to welcome Janet.
It is now decades on from those early days of the Grange. In addition to being founder members, Janet and Ann also have something else in common – they are now both widows. Ann’s husband Chris went home to be with the Lord, following a long illness in 2015. Janet’s husband Jim went home to be with the Lord at the beginning of this year, 2017. Ann’s three daughters and their families also live in the Vancouver and Fraser Valley area. Janet’s son and daughter live in the south of England with their families within easy reach of her. Janet and Ann are definitely very involved grandmas.
Within a week of Janet’s arrival, she and Ann went off together on a Hawaiian cruise and enjoyed catching up on old times. On her return from the cruise Janet came and stayed with us. Her visit came to an end in mid October when she flew home to the UK. Here are some Hawaiian cruise pictures taken by the official cruise photographer.
Another person with a very long connection to the Grange Fellowship is Janet Hitchcock. She became part of the Grange about 1970 when she obtained a teaching job in west London. She is one of those Grangers who later emigrated to Canada and took a teaching job in the same town that Grace and I have lived and worked in here in the Fraser Valley. She stayed with the job and school that brought her here for over thirty years, the last decade of which she was the vice-principal of the school. Now retired, Janet lives a very full life volunteering in various good causes as well as helping individual people and families. In September of this year Janet celebrated her 70th birthday. A celebration party was held, attended by many friends, particularly those who were teaching colleagues over a period of three decades. Incidentally, Janet Morris celebrated her 70th birthday earlier this year and Ann will do so in early December.
Another Granger, in the person of Frances West, travelled from her home in Ontario to share Janet’s (Hitchcock) milestone birthday.
It is a great joy for Grace and me to have so many beloved friends who have brought much blessing into our lives. In that respect, we have a very large “family” and love every member of it.
Naj, Frances, Grace and Martin at Naj’s party! Sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, a variety of little cakes, trifles etc and tea in bone china cups or coffee in bone china mugs. It took place between 2.30 and 7.30 on Saturday afternoon with quite a crowd attending. Wendy, Janet’s sister came over to spend a few weeks with Naj and to celebrate her special birthday with her and all of Naj’s friends.
The bridal gown above was created by Shiloha’s who is married to Ben Levi; we have other examples of her work on this website.
Shiloha explains her creation:
This year is the anniversary of the Reformation when Martin Luther made a translation of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into German, so that it would be accessible to the German people. And other countries quickly followed suit by translating the Bible into their own languages, and then with the help of the recently invented printing press, made these new translations available to ordinary people. Now today, at least some portion of the bible has been translated into over 3000 languages.
In order to celebrate this I will be making a period gown. The aim of this is to create a gown that looks like something which would have been worn during the reformation, so as close to 1517, as possible.
I also want to have books open, containing testimonies, for visitors to read and I am hoping to get them in various different languages. Then our foreign visitors who come into the Church can read and connect, in their own mother tongue, with a real story written by someone whose life has been changed by God.
Hoping this will bring solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world with the visual imagery of the church preparing herself like a bride for the coming of the bridegroom, our Lord Jesus Christ
‘And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.’ Book of Revelation, Chapter 12 v 11
Here is how Shiloha did it:
The finished article:
In the church:
And just for Grace, here is a Welsh version of the brochure:
An additional note from Shiloha:
I originally approached the vicar of St. Peter’s, Winchcombe, with a view
to putting on an exhibition of paintings in the church.
In my mind’s eye though, I could see the image of a gown and that was the
start of this project.
Christians believe that Jesus is coming back for His Bride. The Bride
being all those who follow Jesus and practice his teachings. ‘If you confess
with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your hearts that God
raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.’ Book of Romans 10.9
In the same way that John the Baptist prepared the people to get ready to
receive Jesus, we also need to be ready.
In Matthews’s gospel chapter 25, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of
heaven is like ten virgins. (‘Virgin’ symbolising forgiven, cleansed from
sin) who each have oil lamps, (oil represents the work of the Holy Spirit)
and have gone to meet the bridegroom.
While they wait they all fall asleep (obviously the bridegroom is taking a
Five of them have let their oil lamps go out while they are waiting sound
asleep. They obviously have not taken sufficient oil with them. These five
then try to borrow oil from the others, who refuse in case they themselves
do not then have enough. (Moral of the story here; you can’t get into
heaven on the back of somebody else’s faith, it has to be your own, and
you must be careful not let your faith grow stone cold and the flame go
out.) So, off trot the foolish virgins to the market to buy more oil. While
they are there at the market, the bridegroom arrives but they are too late
and get shut out of the bridal feast.
So, Jesus warns us to be vigilant, to watch and be ready for his imminent
A little bit of news re Chris (Lewry) Mundell at whose home we stayed in New Zealand. She and her husband have attended Anglican churches where they have been involved in the music of the church. Chris plays the guitar and her husband plays the accordion very well. They live in the country and have a hobby farm.
Chris sent a photo of the hill at her home as it was this Easter.
Chris explains: We have 3 x 4 metre crosses that we position on our hill so that they can be seen from miles away, they usually go up the first week of Lent . . . It is a good witness, although the first year the local farmer said ‘flipping townies, most of us bury our sheep on the flat’.
You may remember Brian Towell who is now known as Ben Levi. Ben’s wife is a gifted artist, whose work has been exhibited. Shiloha used to show/sell her work in London before the Lord called her away, having solo exhibitions around the capital and at Buckingham Gate. She was also commissioned to illustrate Christian videos for the children after the Rwandan Genocide, write children’s stories and shows, amongst other things.
Here is an example of her work. Ben is in the picture on the right.
About this picture: Shiloha prayed, asking what to paint and the Holy Spirit gave her Ezekiel 34. She learnt some Hebrew so as to get the writing/lettering correct and the Seraphim have gold leaf on their wings, etc. That is what you can see coming down onto the people as they are coming out.
Ben and Shiloha Levi have three children. Shiloha is a gifted artist and their son Isaac, one of their three children, won a prize while at University where he took archaeology he is described as :
A conscientious and diligent student who excelled in independent research, Isaac produced an outstanding piece of original coursework which involved identifying a previously unrecorded Roman temple site and this certainly contributed to his final A* grade. He worked extremely hard, devoting weekends to his project as well as helping classmates with their work – a genuine academic and born archaeologist!
Jim was among the first group of boys who began attending Bible study and fellowship meetings at our home in Chiswick, west London in the early 1960s. These meetings began in the autumn of 1961 with four 13 year old girls, all of whom were pupils of Grace at Hammersmith County School for Girls. The number of attendees grew but, for a while, continued to be girls only. In time, however, boys began to attend. As numerical growth took place the group became known as the Grange Fellowship.
Jim was invited by his best friend, David Burl. Both of them, along with another close friend, Ben Belsham, had hearts that were open to the Lord and soon received Christ as their Lord and Saviour. The promise of John 1:12-13 was fulfilled in their lives, “… to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
For these three teenage boys, there was no doubt about their commitment to the Lord Jesus and they have subsequently never faltered in their witness and service for the Lord. Jim and Ben received and obeyed the call to full time Christian ministry; David went on to serve the Lord illustriously in the world of academia. Ben conducted the service of celebration for the life of Jim on 27 January 2017 and David was present.
Like Adam, to whom the Lord brought a wife and soulmate in Eve, the Lord brought Jim the love of his life in Janet, who was one of the original four girls in the founding of the Grange Fellowship. My wife Grace has always been very proud of the fact that she had a role in bringing them together, with the help of David and, doubtless, the approval of the Holy Spirit! Many of you are familiar with the story of how Grace invited Janet, Jim and David to our house one Saturday evening for a time of informal fellowship. The agreement between Grace and David was that he would, under some pretense, leave at 9:00pm leaving Jim and Janet with us for a while longer. It was a dark night and Jim, being the young gentleman that he was, insisted on accompanying Janet to her home in safety. It was the beginning of their courtship and life together.
Their wedding took place on September 24, 1966, when they also became the first Grange Fellowship couple to marry. The Lord blessed them with two fine children, Craig and Lynne. Jim and Janet celebrated their Golden, 50th wedding anniversary in 2016.
Jim joined the staff of the Come Back to God Campaign, an evangelistic organization and trained for the ministry under its auspices. This included studies at Adelaide College and a comprehensive, “on the job” schedule of training at Highgate and Ealing. Incidentally, Ben took the same route in training and preparation for the ministry.
Jim’s first pastorate was at Underwood Free Church in Reading, Berkshire where he was also officially ordained. He remained there for 5 years, after which he became the pastor of Perivale Mission Church, taking over that responsibility from the Rev. Denis Paterson, the founder and director of the Come Back to God Campaign.
From Perivale Jim and Janet, and family moved north to Rochdale in Lancashire where Jim became manager of the Come Back to God Campaign Christian bookshop and also joined the pastoral team of Zion Baptist Church with Rev. Mansel Hiles.
In 1986, Jim became pastor of Fordham Baptist Church in Cambridgeshire and remained there until 2001. It was during these years that both Craig and Lynne were married. Subsequently, their children presented Jim and Janet with 5 grandchildren.
His final move took place in 2001 when he accepted an invitation to become the pastor of Bere Regis Congregational Church in Bere Regis, Dorset. He remained in that position until the Lord took him Home on January 2nd, 2017.
Jim loved being a pastor. Evidence of that can be seen in the fact that he never had any intention of retiring from pastoral ministry. When he celebrated his 65th birthday in 2011 he kept going and on his 70th birthday in June 2016, he was still “in harness” caring for God’s people and preaching the Gospel.
I have no hesitation in saying to any young man aspiring to the ministry, who wants an example of how it should be done, to take an earnest look at the life work of Rev. Jim Morris.
Before saying anything more, this is an appropriate moment to refer to the part played through the years by Janet, Jim’s soulmate and partner in the great work the Lord entrusted to them. Jim and Janet adored each other. They were perfectly matched and Jim would be the first to say that he could not have been such an effective servant of the Lord without Janet at his side.
Jim was a people person. He loved others and there was no limit to the lengths he would go to help and nurture people in their spiritual journey and overcome the challenges that they faced. He attracted people to himself and he was loved by them. A touching and tender example of this was the case of his mother-in-law. Her husband, Janet’s father, predeceased his wife and she, from then on confidently depended on Jim. When she began to slip into a state of dementia, it was Jim to whom she looked more than anyone else to comfort and help her. That care was given attentively by Jim and, of course by Janet too, until she passed away.
I remember him telling me once that he did not have the ambition to be the pastor of a large church with a multitude of people in his congregation. A smaller church in a smaller community fitted him perfectly.
Jim was a sound theologian and an excellent preacher. Through the decades of his ministry, his congregations were blessed by his teaching and counsel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and he spoke with authority. People sensed this about him.
He fitted well into a public setting and when he spoke to a crowd of people, they listened. He also had a great sense of humour. There was nothing dour or depressing about his manner. I told him that I believed that, if the Lord had not called him to ministry in the Kingdom of God, he could have succeeded very well as a stand-up comedian and entertainer. He had a great stage presence. On the occasions when Grace and I travelled to the UK, and there was a Grange Fellowship reunion included on the itinerary, we had no hesitation asking Jim to be the master of ceremonies at that event. Many will recall the easy, humorous manner in which he performed this responsibility. Who can forget him producing a packet of pills from his pocket and saying, “I think the average age of those attending this reunion is 55. Perhaps now is the time we should be taking our pills?” Then, taking pills out of the packet in his hand he would say, “These are my heart pills and these are for my cholesterol etc. etc.” Vividly imprinted on my memory is the hilarious rendition by Jim, complete with costume, hat and false beard, at the 2015 reunion in Gunnersbury Baptist Church in Chiswick of Fagan’s song from the musical Oliver, “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two.” Those of you who were there will remember and it is OK to laugh again right now.
This brings me to a very valuable comment that I want to make regarding Jim and Janet’s ministry. They did what Jesus did in a way that regrettably is not always seen in the work of pastors and their wives. While some of us busy ourselves setting up programmes in our churches and invite people to come to them (nothing basically wrong in doing that), we forget and fail to do what Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” Jim did not make this mistake.
The Gospels tell of the Lord Jesus going to the people and mingling with them where they were, often to the disgust of the religious leaders of His day. Jim and Janet did what their Saviour did and became involved in their community. The people of Bere Regis have plenty of memories of Jim that will remind them that he was a man who loved them, a man who loved life, a man who not only wanted people to come to faith in the Lord Jesus but have fun and be happy. Jim and Janet could be found attending and active in events that included the whole community and brought people together.
I do not know of any pastor anywhere who regularly became involved in the presentation of an annual pantomime or musical production. Jim did more than get involved, he wrote the script, directed and played a major role in at least 9 major dramatic productions over the years. He will be sadly missed and long remembered with affection by the people of Bere Regis, a community Jim and Janet came to love.
King David is believed to be the writer of Psalm 37 and in verse 23 he says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delights in his way.” Jim was truly, a good man. If he were here and heard me say that, he would hasten to add that, if that were true it was due to the manifestation of God’s grace in his life. He would be right of course, in the way that it would be true for all of us who seek to follow the Lord Jesus as His disciples.
Grace and I are so grateful for some quality time that we were able to spend with Jim and Janet in 2007. Through a Time Share to which they belonged they were able to book a stay at a very nice location near Banff, Alberta and invited us to share it with them. It was a wonderful time of rich fellowship. Afterwards we drove home to Abbotsford where we had more time together. We shall not forget that special time.
Sadly, for us, we shall not have another opportunity here on earth to have good fellowship with Jim, or to sing along as he leads the singing of worship songs, strumming along on his banjo, or hear him preach, or watch and roar with laughter as we attend a performance of one of his pantomimes. We all mourn and grieve our loss of him. For Grace and me, his passing means another of our spiritual children has gone on ahead of us into the glorious presence of the Lord.
However, grieve though we may, that is far from being the whole story. Writing to the believers in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul said, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” We know by faith and the witness of the Holy Spirit that Jim is more alive now than he has ever been. He has seen Jesus face to face, and has entered into his eternal inheritance that the Lord has prepared for him and all of God’s people. Without any doubt in my mind, I know he was greeted on arrival in glory with enthusiastic rejoicing and heard the word of the Lord Jesus to him, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.”
It is not easy for us to imagine what eternal blessings Jim is now enjoying. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), the Bible commentator wrote the following words as he neared the end of his life, and gave instructions that they be read at his funeral. Let us put these words into Jim’s mouth and give him the last word.
“Would you like to know where I am?
I am at home in my Father’s house, in the mansion prepared for me there. I am where I want to be – no longer on the stormy sea, but in God’s safe, quiet harbour. My sowing time is done and I am reaping; my joy is as the joy of harvest.
Would you like to know how it is with me?
I am made perfect in holiness. Grace is swallowed up in glory.
Would you like to know what I am doing?
I see God, not as through a glass darkly, but face to face. I am engaged in the sweet enjoyment of my precious Redeemer. I am singing hallelujahs to Him who sits upon the Throne, and I am constantly praising Him.
Would you like to know what blessed company I keep?
It is better than the best on earth. Here are the holy angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. I am with old acquaintances with whom I worked and prayed, and who came here before me.
Lastly, would you like to know how long this will continue?
It is a dawn that never fades! After millions and millions of ages, it will be as fresh as it is now.
Today, a few will gather to say “good bye” to Noel who passed away a couple of weeks ago. Experiencing health problems, he died peacefully in West Middlesex Hospital earlier this month [May 2016]. Though not active in church life, he was faithful in his walk with the Lord and has now gone to be with Him.
Noel came to the UK from his native British Guyana with his mother when a boy. After a few years his mother wanted to go to Canada where Noel’s had a brother and sister, but Noel wanted to remain in the UK, so he stayed, probably by then in his teens. He often used to visited his family in Canada though and was loved by them.
Noel therefore lived in the UK without much in the way of family connection, but was adopted in a manner of speaking by Frank and Ethel Broadbent when he was part of the Gunnersbury Baptist family. He in turn looked out for them as they aged and became more dependent. He was gainfully employed for much of his working life at Remploy, a government agency giving work for people with disabilities, for Noel’s eyesight was very poor.
Noel was a faithful member of the Grange Fellowship and is seen in the photos of trips abroad. Being of diminutive stature those images of him are not particularly good and the photo here of him reading “The Challenge” newspaper is the best one to remember him by.