Diocese of Portsmouth

    Bishop to present church stalwarts with awards

    24 April 2018

    AN Isle of Wight church organist will be one of 15 church stalwarts to be given a special award by the Bishop of Portsmouth this Sunday.

    John Cheverton will be thanked for a mammoth 63 years as PCC secretary at St Peter’s Church, Seaview, and 54 years as the church’s organist.

    Apart from holidays, he has hardly missed a service there since he joined the choir as a seven-year-old in December 1941. He was also organist at the neighbouring St Helens Church for several years, and served as choir director in St Peter’s, Seaview.

    His wife, Molly, will also receive one of the St Thomas Awards – the annual award given by the Rt Rev Christopher Foster to faithful churchgoers who have spent years serving their church and local community. Recipients will be presented with the award during Evensong at Portsmouth Cathedral, at 6pm on April 29.

    Molly Cheverton was responsible for starting Community Friendship Lunches, which have linked lonely and bereaved people together twice a month for the past 20 years. She also ran a youth club locally, has been the mainstay of the local Mothers’ Union, assists with catering at many church events and volunteers as a Communion assistant.

    John and Molly (pictured above), who are both now 84, also ran a community call system with two-way CB radios, which brought comfort each morning to elderly members of the community for 20 years.

    “I think I must have some built in loyalty that has kept me with the church – but of course it is also that I like doing everything that I do,” said John. “I am not a person who likes to change very much – I was in my job for 43 years.

    “My faith is a very strong part of that too. It is what keeps you going on through everything. If we go on holiday and it happens to start on a Sunday it really doesn’t feel right to me – I always feel I should be going to church on a Sunday.”

    When John and Molly were married at St Peter’s Church back in 1959, the choir stalls were sparsely filled and there were only two children. John made it his ambition to get a thriving choir back in the church. Initial visits to Nettlestone Primary School involved him recruiting good singers to join the junior choir, and they soon became one of the larger church choirs on the island.

    Another recipient of a St Thomas Award will be Peter Short, from the Church of Our Lady, Warnford, near Petersfield. He has been churchwarden there for 50 years, and also volunteers as treasurer, sacristan and server. He does everything from preparing the church for services to mowing the grass outside.

    Peter, who is now 85, started as churchwarden in 1968 and has also been treasurer for a number of years, meaning he carries some responsibility for both the church building and its finances. He hopes to step down from both positions this year.

    He also serves on deanery synod and finance committee meetings, is treasurer of a local charity, the Coles Trust, and for many years was chairman of the West Meon and Warnford Garden Club.

    He said: “I’ve lived here for 60 years. It’s a small village and the church is an important part of village life. It is a peaceful, quiet, wonderful place and I’ve loved taking care of it – it’s like my second home. I get a lot out of being involved, and I’ve worked alongside some very good clergy over the years.

    “I do need to step down this year, so I’d love to see someone else come forward to be churchwarden. And it is slightly embarrassing to be given an award, as I certainly don’t do this to be recognised in any way.”

    Among others who will receive awards are:

    • Dr Roger Sutton, from St Jude’s Church, Southsea, who has recently retired as a much-loved GP in Havant after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was churchwarden at St Jude’s for six years and has been active in the congregation since 1982.
    • The Rev Mike Pye, from All Saints Church, Commercial Road, Portsmouth. He has been the parish priest in the most deprived parish in Portsmouth diocese for 10 years, and has shown real dedication in his ministry.
    • Kay Lancaster, from St Francis Church, Alverstoke, who was part of the education team supporting Church of England schools for many years. She is currently unwell and is unable to attend, so the bishop presented her with the award on Easter Sunday.
    • Rupert Bennett, from St Andrew’s Church, Hayling Island, who has been integral to the running of the church for years, taking care of the building and ensuring services run smoothly.
    • Brian Hay, from St Mary the Virgin, Rowner, who was part of the education team advising C of E schools for many years, and was a governor at Charter Academy.
    • Susan Jones, from St John the Baptist, Shedfield, who has ‘been there’ for 50 years, unobtrusively cleaning, decorating, organising, co-ordinating and leading groups. She was churchwarden during the building of the church’s study centre and has been verger and sacristan for the past 10 years. She also taught in the local primary school for 20 years;
    • David Lougher, from Holy Trinity Church, Blendworth, was PCC treasurer for 10 years and churchwarden for 10 years. He also helped to run an arts and music festival at the church, and has managed bookings in the busy parish hall for years. He is also a Reader, sidesman, Communion assistant and server.
    • Joan Cozens, from North End Team Ministry, Portsmouth, is one of the parish wardens and treasurer of both St Mark’s and St Francis’ Churches. She is also one of the main volunteers for the community café, which is open from 10am-1pm Monday to Friday, serving dozens of people every week. She is also a committee member for the Buckland Park Play Association, raising funds for children of deprived backgrounds to go on camps and residentials.
    • Graham Johnson, from Empshott, Hawkley and Priors Dean, near Petersfield, who has served on the PCC for many years, acting as churchwarden from 2009-2015. He has managed the Hawkley and Priors Dean church buildings, maintaining them himself as well as calling in tradespeople. He delivered the bulk of the building, electrical and plumbing work for a project to make the church more welcoming. He also did an enormous amount of refurbishment work to the vicarage.
    • Brenda Ellison has given faithful service to St John’s, Sandown, for years, as churchwarden and leader of the monthly Food for Thought service. She has had a major co-ordinating role on the PCC, she manages the letting of two halls, and is central to many fundraising activities.
    • Jim Palmer, from the parish of Holy Trinity and St Columba, Fareham, has just completed a full six-year term as churchwarden for St Columba Church. He takes care of the church fabric, handles all the IT needs for the parish and chairs the committee that runs the Highlands Hub, the church’s community outreach.

    One of the recipients, David Tamcken, from St Catherine’s Church, Ventnor, was preparing to receive his St Thomas Award, but sadly died suddenly last week. He had served for many years as a Reader, confidant, friend and churchwarden to many.

    He spent many years visiting and fundraising for the church’s link parish in Ghana, and has been involved in leading worship of different kinds at St Catherine’s, and the project to enhance the landscaping in its churchyard. His wife Shirley and their family plan to attend the service at Portsmouth Cathedral on Sunday to receive the award on David’s behalf.

    This is the third year that Bishop Christopher has presented churchgoers with the St Thomas Award. It is named after our cathedral, which is dedicated to St Thomas a Becket, who was Archbishop of Canterbury almost 1,000 years ago.