Diocese of Portsmouth

    Worshippers honoured for their service to church and community

    Faith stories
    1 May 2018

    (top, left to right): Brian Hay, Rupert Bennett, Graham Johnson, Peter Short, Brenda Ellison, Roger Sutton, David Lougher and Jim Palmer; (bottom, l to r): Susan Jones, Shirley Tamcken, Bishop Christopher, Molly and John Cheverton, Joan Cozens and the Rev Mike Pye

    FIFTEEN faithful worshippers have been honoured for their service to their churches and local communities.

    Bishop Christopher presented special awards to the 15 stalwarts at an Evensong service in Portsmouth Cathedral. The cathedral was packed with family, friends and fellow worshippers of the recipients.

    The St Thomas Awards, which are small lapel badges, are given each year to churchgoers who have spent years serving their churches and communities. This is the third year the bishop has awarded them.

    He said: "It is love in action that we celebrate in the lives of those receiving awards this evening, and of course many others too. It is not that their work has only focused on their local areas, but that in a variety of different ways, long-standing service has demonstrated that love which keeps on going with the messy and challenging concrete realities of day to day life.

    "They are genuinely unsung heroes and it is truly a privilege to draw them out of their humility and honour them, along with the countless more who serve the Gospel so faithfully in our communities, parishes and chaplaincies."

    Two of those who were due to receive an award sadly died before the service took place, though both knew they would be honoured. David Tamcken from St Catherine's Church, Ventnor - a Reader, confidant, churchwarden and energetic supporter of links with Ghana -  had rung the bishop a week beforehand to say how "gobsmacked" he had been to learn of the honour. He died suddenly the next day. His wife Shirley and other members of the family attended the service to receive the award on his behalf. 

    The bishop also told the congregation that Kay Lancaster had died after a long illness the day before the service took place. He had already presented a St Thomas Award to her, as she knew she wouldn't be able to attend. Her quiet efficiency and care in serving the parish of Alverstoke and its daughter church of St Francis, and in working in our diocesan offices for more than 20 years, was honoured.

    The others to receive awards were:

    • Roger Sutton brought his Christian faith into his work as a GP in Havant. His patience, generosity and thoughtfulness are legendary and he has served the parish of St Jude’s in Southsea, where he was churchwarden for six years. .
    • Peter Short, has been churchwarden in Warnford for 50 years. He has been humble, faithful and cheerful as parish treasurer, village garden club and sports club chairman, sacristan, server, deanery synod and finance rep.
    • The Rev Mike Pye retires soon after 11 years of vicar of All Saints Church in central Portsmouth. He has served the most deprived community in the diocese with commitment and dedication, contributed hugely to the mission of churches in central Portsmouth and been a thoughtful contributor to deanery and diocesan discussions.
    • Jim Palmer, churchwarden at St Columba, Fareham, has combined fabric care, the parish’s IT needs, and preparation for GDPR with a heart for the community. He chairs the committee running the Highlands Hub café, which is a meeting place, internet café and much more.
    • David Lougher is the go-to person for queries in Blendworth about maintenance, supply and upkeep to keep things running, and is hands on cleaning floors and doing maintenance jobs. He too has served as treasurer, churchwarden, hall bookings secretary and also ran an arts and music festival. He lives out his Christian service in genuine and unassuming practical ways.
    • Susan Jones begins each day with the morning office and from that moves into unobtrusive cleaning, decorating, organising, coordinating and leadership in the parish of Shedfield. She is verger, sacristan, a Ride and Stride enthusiast, committed to baptism ministry and - after teaching locally for 20 years - knows most couples who marry at the church.
    • Graham Johnson has lived and worshipped in Hawkley for many years, serving on the PCC and as churchwarden. He has been responsible for the fabric of the church, often carrying out maintenance jobs himself.
    • Brian Hay was a member of our diocesan education team for many years, and also a school governor at Charter Academy, carrying out a crucial voluntary role, supporting the Christian ethos in our only mainland C of E secondary school.
    • Brenda Ellison is central to much ministry at St John’s Sandown – running services such as Food for Thought, hall bookings, PCC coordination, fund raising, baking and cooking. She is churchwarden, but her role is much more than that.
    • Joan Cozens is is parish warden in the North End Team Ministry. She’s modest and unassuming and her welcoming smile and words are offered to all-comers. She is also involved with many community groups and charities including amateur dramatics, driving, toy library, Replay, Buckland Park Play Association and more.
    • Molly and John Cheverton ran the community call system in Seaview for more than 20 years, using CB radios to give a friendly call every morning to elderly and vulnerable people. Molly started the Friendship Lunches, linking lonely and bereaved people, and ran a youth club, a table tennis club, and is a Mothers Union mainstay. John has been organist at St Peter's for 54 years, and is still in post, still plays for Nettlestone School's weekly collective worship, and has been PCC secretary for an astonishing 63 years.
    • Rupert Bennett has been a pivotal member of St Andrew’s Hayling from its founding. He continues to be cherished and revered for his decades of quiet humble service, integral in the running of the church, ensuring the liturgies run smoothly and being a uniting presence in the congregation.

    For more photos of this special service, click here.

    To read the text of the bishop's sermon, click here.