Goodbye Ernest and Thank you

On Sunday March 12th Rev. Brian Hoare, a supernumerary minister led worship at Wesley Chapel.  Our opening hymn was ‘Sing of the Lord’s goodness’ and Brian led the opening prayers.  We said Psalm 121 responsively before we sang ‘In the wonder of creation.’  Genesis 12.1-5 and John 3.1-17 were read before we sang, ‘Author of faith, eternal word.’ Following the sermon we sang ‘All I once held dear’, before the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer.  Our closing hymn was ‘O the bitter shame and sorrow.’  It was a worshipful service.

On Friday March 17th I went to the funeral service of one of our most faithful local preachers, William Ernest Stephens, known to us as Ernest.  He only took a few weeks off preaching when his wife was in the final stages of terminal cancer, otherwise he was known as the compulsive volunteer.  He was accredited as a local preacher in March 1991, a year after I came on full plan.  When my late first husband was ill in Clifton hospital in York, he was one of the most faithful visitors in 1980.  He was a very caring and helpful person, who was involved in organising music concerts too at his chapel, Woodlands Chapel.  He was a former nurse.  He loved dogs and after he felt he was too old to have his own dog he delighted in walking other people’s dogs if required.  Sometimes it is not good to be too indispensible, as following his death, the chapel now has realised how much he did, and there is a shortage of ready volunteers!  He took his last service at Hampsthwaite Chapel, having preached there first in his years of service just days before his death.  He was planned to preach at our chapel, but rang one of our local preachers, Rosemary Green, as he felt too unwell to preach the following Sunday; she had not expected him to have died before that service!!

There was a family service of commendation at the crematorium, before the thanksgiving service at Woodlands Chapel. Christine his minister welcomed the large crowd of worshippers and we sang ‘Sweet is the work, my God, my king’, which was the signature hymn of the Harrogate Male Voice choir. John 14.1-6 and Peter 1.3-9 were read before Christine led the tribute, wondering how she would have managed without his volunteering over the years.  He was very conscientious and for a time he was the Local Preacher’s Secretary.  He regularly attended the Local Preacher’s meeting and was always interested in how everyone was.  Christine led the prayers and the Lord’s Prayer after we had sung, ‘Give to me Lord, a thankful heart.’  The final hymn was ‘In Christ alone my hope is found.’ Donations were given to St Michael’s Hospice which had supported Ernest during his wife’s illness.  It was a privilege to have known him.

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