Betty Margaret Andrews Sutton: 1932-2017
With the death of Betty Sutton, Baptists in Yorkshire have lost an amazing person, whose leadership included a whole strong of “firsts” in Yorkshire Baptist life
Betty was one of two daughters of James Edward Hartley, a man of substance in the worsted trade who, with his wife, was a stalwart of Tetley Street Memorial Baptist Church.
In the late 1950s following a general policy of allocation by the City of Bradford, the Free Churches of Bradford were allocated a site for a church on the Buttershaw estate in Bradford and this was afforded to the Bradford Baptist District. James Edward Hartley, Frank Robinson, Frank Waddington and others from all the Bradford Baptist churches were commissioned and sent to begin the cause at Buttershaw and Betty and her new husband Derek, were part of the team who joined her father in pioneering the work in January 1958, in the newly erected local Secondary Modern school. The church building was erected on the site previously allocated and was opened in 1960. Betty was indefatigable in her commitment to Buttershaw. She trained as a teacher and taught English at the same school, alongside another stalwart Yorkshire Baptist, John Raymond Hanson, who taught history. Betty went on to teach at a local primary school and ended her teaching career there.
In the evening activities of the church she took on so many roles. She played the piano for Sunday School and learnt to play the organ under the tutelage of Frank Robinson and Elsie Dry; encouraged young people and by the 1970s had become a Deacon (initially the only woman amongst eleven men). She was BMS secretary for the church and later for the district and took every opportunity to promote the work of the society.
Ministers came and went in this Home Mission cause, but Betty and Derek remained, encouraging generations of teenagers from the estate to commit their lives to Christ in the waters of Baptism and go on to serve Baptist churches in many places. At Buttershaw she encouraged the development of a youth diaconate with many young people learning skills on church leadership put to good effect elsewhere as they moved on in life. Having trained at RADA, Betty ensured that the children and young people at Buttershaw learnt how to read clearly and to project their voices in the days before microphones. The Young People’s Christian Endeavour group won many speaking awards due to the coaching they received from her over the years.
Yet, Betty, with Derek, was absolutely committed to the wider Baptist vision of associating, as her father had been. She was a stalwart Secretary of the Bradford District Baptist Council in the 1980s and was founder of the Bradford Baptist Luncheon Club hosted in the Bradford Technical College Catering Department, with an invited speaker, which drew large numbers. She served on the Yorkshire Baptist Association Council and later became the first Chairperson of the newly formed Executive of the Council as well as being the first woman to serve as President of the YBA in 1989. Inevitably, she was elected to serve as a Yorkshire member on the Baptist Union Council.
This remarkable woman was forthright in her opinions – to be taken on one side by Betty was to receive trenchant and generally good advice. She was adept at working through an agenda and making sure clear outcomes were recorded. It was not wise to waffle or prevaricate if Betty was in the chair! Betty had a great pastoral heart and helped and encouraged countless young people in Buttershaw to achieve far more in life than they might have imagined. Derek and Betty welcomed people into their home and she was a great spotter of those who might advance the Baptist cause. If she saw gifting in you, she was an amazing encourager and enabler.
In retirement Betty and Derek moved to Leeds and joined the South Parade Church making their home in the Adel Congregation.
Betty is survived by her sister, Barbara and by her daughters, Jane and Alex.
AH and KGJ