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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Congratulations to a 'Diamond Couple'

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

Happy 60th wedding anniversary

Hearty congratulations to Anne and John Townsend, who hold a special place in the hearts of those connected with Anna Chaplaincy... as they celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary this week.

John and Anne on their wedding day

The Revd Dr Anne Townsend, to give her full title, is an Anna Chaplaincy mentor, supporting the team individually and through training. She is currently living with cancer and undergoing treatment.

BRF's Church Lead for Anna Chaplaincy, Julia Burton-Jones, who's based in Kent, described watching Sunday's recorded service from Bromley Parish Church at which John read one of the readings and Anne preached. The vicar, the Revd James Harratt, had recorded himself saying prayers of blessing for the couple on their wedding anniversary, remotely last Thursday, on the date itself.

The service also included a video full of best wishes, photos and recorded messages, compiled by Anna Chaplain in Bromley, the Revd Sophie Sutherland, featuring friends and colleagues from far and wide, sending their love and greetings. There was was one, too, from the Bromley Anna Chaplaincy hub. 'The whole thing was very moving,' said Julia.

Immortal diamonds

The sermon (introduced at around 22 minutes in) was based on Gerard Manley Hopkin’s poem, That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection, the final lines of which are:

In a flash, at a trumpet crash,

I am all at once what Christ is, since he was what I am, and

This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, patch, matchwood immortal diamond,

Is immortal diamond.

We know that diamonds are formed when coal is subject to intense heat and pressure. So, too, it was with wind and fire, signs of God's presence, that the Holy Spirit came transforming the disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost.

Transforming the church

Anne spoke of how coronavirus is forcing us out of the safety and security of our local 'upper rooms', as the Holy Spirit transforms the church; so that we don’t return to the ways we worshipped before; with outsiders asked to adapt to our familiar ways of doing things.

It was, as Julia Burton-Jones declared it to be 'inspiring stuff. Anne was showing us how being face to face with your own mortality makes you re-evaluate what matters, and speak with courage.'

Anne, who trained as a psychotherapist late in life, regards it as appropriate that her sermon – what might be her 'final bow' from the ‘pulpit’ at Bromley Parish Church, she said – came in this week of her diamond wedding anniversary. Because the first time she had preached in St Peter and St Paul's Church, Bromley eight years ago, was at the time of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Diamonds are the 'bookends' of her preaching ministry at the church.

Anne had reckoned that 'about 90 people clocked into the church service' (but many more have watched it since) 'and a lot of them and others stayed on for the Zoom party. I videoed my sermon a couple of weeks ago… So it meant that I wasn’t exhausted yesterday by preaching live as well as doing all the other technical stuff for the service and party – John does not do computers!'

Julia tells us: 'I am delighted that Anne and John were uplifted by all the love they felt.'

Anna Chaplain, Sophie Sutherland

Feeling cherished

'All of this was thanks to Anna Chaplain Sophie,' explained Anne. 'At the planning stage of this I was too ill with cancer to do anything other than say I would do my best to turn up for it, if I was still alive. But, in the event, I am actually feeling much better than I have done for a long time and was able to thoroughly enjoy everything Sophie had done.'

What with the grandchildren’s efforts, too, she said: 'It was totally amazing. It was all the more special, because I am one of those who is classed by the government as “extremely vulnerable" and so I have been shut away for weeks and weeks – suddenly to have this wave of love and “cherishment” was wonderful.'

God has not lost us

We join so many well-wishers in sending warm congratulations to Anne and John and, by way of a footnote, add:

In 2012 Anne wrote a reflection on her life and ageing. 'Growing old can be terrifying,' she wrote. Sometimes we may feel we have lost God – but my experience is that he has not lost us. He is looking after us, especially at those times when we’re so exhausted we are not aware of it!'



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