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.
Grangers, this is a work in progress. Having stated in our Christmas letter that I would prepare a fuller account of the Grange reunions of 2015 and, hopefully have it posted on the Grange Interactive by Christmas I have arrived at December 23rd, with one section still to write and the selection of pictures still to do. I have decided to post what’s done and get the rest finished as soon after Christmas as possible. It has been a very busy time.
During 2015 two Grange reunions were held in the UK. The first and larger of the two occurred on August 8th at Gunnersbury Baptist Church (GBC), Chiswick, London and the smaller on August 15th at the home of Mike and Tricia Benge in New Milton, Hampshire. We are extremely grateful to Pastor Tim Manson and the church family at GBC for their willingness to make the premises available to us and we have the same gratitude to Mike and Tricia for hosting the New Milton reunion.
The Grange Fellowship began in 1961 in our home on Wellesley Road, Chiswick, located less than 100 yards from GBC. The first members were four 13 year old girls who were all pupils (students) at Hammersmith County School for Girls, the school where Grace was a teacher of French. Two of those original four attended this year’s reunion(s) – Ann King and Janet Morris.
If you do the numbers you will quickly realize that 2015 is the 54th anniversary of the founding of the Grange. So, although the Grange was a Christian youth ministry, functioning actively as such throughout the eventful 1960s and 1970s, its alumni are now well into middle life – parents and grandparents in fact.
Grace did an immense amount of work during the months leading up to the reunions. She sent emails to a multitude, with all the details and asking people to let her know if they planned to be there. If she did not get a reply she wrote again and again … a bit like a highly trained sheep dog scampering furiously around, rounding up and herding the flock into the pen! I must add that Lesley Willey also did a lot of work with Grace in the matter of finding contacting people. Lesley is the administrator of the Grange websites and does a great deal of work keeping them up to date.
To the best of our calculation, 112 attended the reunion held at Gunnersbury and 18 at New Milton. Another 20 or so had indicated that they hoped to be there but finally could not, for various reasons. One of the former Grangers who would have loved to have been there is the innovative Frances West. It was her work which prevented her, so she had a larger than life poster made from a photograph of her which was pinned up for all to see. She was with us not just in spirit but in a visual sense.
An amazingly efficient team of people prepared the auditorium, changing it from a church sanctuary into a place with chairs and tables and then, after the reunion, changed it back into a sanctuary for the church services that were held the following day. A banquet type buffet was set out to nourish us all, which it amply did. It would, I believe, have been to the satisfaction of Henry VIII but he could not be there for a simple and fatal reason that you all know about. Janet and Barry McGovern took the lead in these preparations but had many very willing helpers.
For the programme of the evening we asked Jim Morris if he would be good enough to be the MC. Jim is talented and perfect for a job like that. He met his wife Janet (one of the original 4) at the Grange and they were the first couple in the Grange to marry (1966). Are you keeping up with your mental arithmetic? Yes, you’ve got it – next year, 2016, they will celebrate their golden wedding! I can’t believe it but it is true. Jim and Janet were called by the Lord into pastoral ministry and have faithfully served in a number of churches through the decades, currently at Bere Regis in Dorset.
Jim has a comfortable and easy manner publicly and has a very good and quick sense of humour. He soon had everyone relaxed and participating. A roll call revealed that attendees, in order to be present, had travelled from various places in England, Scotland, Wales, France, Holland, Canada and the USA. I want to add one other country even though the attendees did not specifically travel from there in order to attend the Grange reunion. Peter and Jenny Etherton recently returned to the UK following 14 years on pastoral staff at a church in Perth, Australia. It was a delight to see them again. They are now serving the Lord in the north east of England.
Jim had another roll call and frankly, in my opinion he is one of the few people who could pull this one off and produce gales of laughter in the process. Knowing that the Grangers are now in their 50s and 60s he asked for a show of hands by those who had already had hip and/or knee replacements! While there was not a forest of hands raised, there were more than one would have expected. Did anyone have a pacemaker? Well, Jim himself has one.
Some former Grangers brought special items to the programme. Mike Benge sang “To God be the Glory” and “Desperados,” accompanying himself with his guitar. Chris Perryman (from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada) sang and yodeled as well as shared how, through the influence of Grace, his teacher at Chiswick Grammar School, he turned his heart to the Lord, making his commitment to Christ at the Billy Graham Crusade at Earls Court in 1966. Siobhain Corsie sang the songs, “My peace I give unto you,” “He is my Saviour and my Friend” and “In His Love,” (that one is available on iTunes). Siobhain, back in the 1970s became lead female vocalist in the Christian music group, “Meet Jesus Music,” the founder and director of which was Keith Routledge. It was a great privilege for us to have Keith with us. He accompanied Siobhain at the piano. Grace read a poem, written specially for the occasion. The entertainment was not restricted to specifically Christian music. Harry Willey told some jokes, Jim Morris sang, “You make me feel so young” and, with the help of some others, brought a marvelous rendition of Fagan’s song, “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two,” from the musical “Oliver.” This latter item brought the house down! And of course, we did a lot of singing together, accompanied by Grace at the piano. Other items were led by Jim on the banjo with Ernie Norman on the clarinet. As we sang the much loved songs and choruses that were so popular in our meetings back in the 1960s and 1970s, it seemed as though we were in a time warp and back in our teens again. If you would like to see some videos taken at the Gunnersbury reunion, here is a link: https://thegrangefellowship.wordpress.com/video/.
The smaller reunion in New Milton was an intimate, beautiful and informal occasion in which we enjoyed rich fellowship in the Lord but without a specific programme as such. A number of those who attended were also at the Gunnersbury event. Mike and Tricia were wonderful hosts.
The Gunnersbury event concluded with some remarks from me. My remarks were not recorded in their entirety but I will do my best to write a transcript here of what I said. I still have my notes which will definitely help and I will review the recorded segment that we do have. I am afraid that the sound quality of the recording is poor and I must take the major blame for that. Apparently I should have held the microphone closer to my mouth. I will also take the liberty to add some details and items that I should have included at the time. It was getting late and I did not want people to be bored or getting anxious because they needed to be on their way home. So, as you read this transcript and read something here and there that will prompt the thought, “I don’t remember him saying that,” don’t worry, you are not getting forgetful, I probably did not say it on the night.
I am very happy to announce that Lesley (Watson) Willey has completed all the necessary work and has been awarded the distinction of a doctorate, conferred on her by the Christian Leadership University in Florida. Her focus for her studies was on Intercession and Prophetic Ministry. The work required to achieve this goal was very extensive and has taken quite a number years of discipline, hard work and determination on Lesley’s part. We warmly congratulate her on her achievement. She joins the other members of the Grange who have earned doctorates: Nigel Edwards, Brian Morris and David Burl – an elite group indeed.
Lesley’s doctorate also illustrates that there are now opportunities available online to achieve such a high academic level. All her required courses, research, written submissions and dissertation were completed online. If you aspire to a similar goal, be inspired by Lesley, our flag bearer.”
Chris Smith went home to be with the Lord this morning, he was 64 years old. He was very excited about coming to the Grange Fellowship Reunion in August, but it was just at this time that the symtoms of his illness were to kick in. Shortly after he received the rather shocking news that he had an inoperable brain tumour. The medics did not offer any other treatment either and Chris and his wife Ros had to accept that in the natural scheme of things time was short. He was transfered to a local hospice where I am told that he was given excellent care in his remaining time.
There will be many of you who remember Chris as part of the Grange Fellowship. He was known for his long telephone conversations as he loved to connect with people. In latter life he developed a prophetic ministry which he spoke about enthusiastically. He and Ros belonged to an excellent fellowship of God’s people where they were active and who in turn supported them in every way as Chris fell ill.
Professionally he became a proof-reader which he seemed to enjoy and which provided a lucrative means of living. He had not fully retired and had more work lined up as he became ill. The onset of his condition was seemingly unsuspected and without much warning; his decline rapid.
After a visit to Julia Button and husband John recently, I have received this sad news. . .
It was great to see you last week Lesley – it’s not often I get a chance to reminisce about school days!
Things have moved on since then. We called in to see Essie on Wednesday morning and she seemed a ittle brighter, so we went to Salisbury for the day. She deteriorated around tea time, we were called in by the home at 10pm, she died at 11.30. She was very peaceful throughout and didn’t show any distress. We were with her when she died. . . The cause of death was put down as stroke.
So since then we have been busy with arrangements.We have been helped along the way with this. The funeral will be on Thursday June 18th at Rosebery Park Baptist Church on Christchurch Road, Boscombe at 12.30, followed by a buffet in the church hall for any who come.