The Revd Sister Margaret Jarman CPP BD: 1932-2018
The Revd Sister Margaret Jarman died on Easter Day evening, 1 April 2018 aged 85. She was a remarkable woman within the British Baptist community, with a notable number of “firsts” to her name
Service of Thanksgiving
to be held at Yatton Methodist Church on Tuesday 24 April at 13:30.
Donations in lieu of flowers to RNLI (Teignmouth) c/o Keith C Britton & Son, Funeral Directors, 10 High Street, Yatton BS49 4JA
Sister Margaret was born on 18 June 1932 and grew up in the Hall Green area of Birmingham, being educated at Hall Green Council School then Solihull High School for Girls.
Her father died in 1947 in Davos, Switzerland, while having treatment for TB, and Margaret left school in 1948 with the School Certificate. Her life as a teenager had been fulfilled through her Guiding with Brownies at Etwall Road Congregational Church, then guiding through the 260th Birmingham Guides based at Hall Green Baptist Church where she ultimately became a Lieutenant.
Margaret had an interest in farming and in 1949 enrolled at the Northants Institute of Agriculture in Moulton where she attended Moulton Baptist Church. Here she was converted and in September 1950 was baptised at Moulton by Frank Adams, becoming a member at Hall Green Baptist Church.
From Agricultural College Margaret went as a herdswoman to Four Ashes Farm, Dorridge. Living at home, she went to the farm on a motorbike!
2 Timothy 1: 8-9 was a call to Margaret to enter full time Christian service and thus began a preparation involving experience as a ward orderly at Birmingham General Hospital and volunteer work with Birmingham Social Services.
In 1953 she began training as a Baptist Deaconess at Struan doing practical work with Frank Fitzsimmonds in New Malden and then in West End, Hammersmith. She gained the London University CRK and about this time her mother was converted and joined Hall Green Baptist Church, being baptised in 1960.
Leaving college, she settled at the Pontesbury group of churches in Shropshire and in 1959 was recognised as an Accredited Deaconess at the Baptist Assembly.
Margaret helped with registration at the BWA Congress held in London in 1955, before completing her Deaconess training at Carey Hall.
She attended the 1958 European Baptist Federation Congress in Berlin as part of the group of Deaconesses and afterwards stayed with the German Baptist Deaconesses in Berlin and Hamburg.
Throughout this time Margaret worked on gaining admission to the London external BD course, learning Hebrew with A S Herbert at Selly Oak Colleges. In 1961 she spent time at Spurgeon’s College to complete her London BD. She was the first woman student at Spurgeon’s, though was not technically counted as a ministerial student.
In 1962 she was part of a summer school at the Baptist Theological College in Rueschlikon and George Beasley-Murray took her to see the place where her father’s ashes were interned at Davos.
In 1963, having completed her BD and time at Spurgeon’s she was asked to serve at Baptist Church House in London as Organising Secretary for the Deaconess Department, and later took on responsibility for the BU Diploma.
Following the decision of the Baptist Union Council to close down the vocation of deaconess and ordain existing Deaconesses as Ministers she was ordained on 6 September 1967 at Holmesdale Baptist Church, where she was a member.
She was involved in the denominational conferences at Swanwick in 1961 and 1964, and in 1964 attended her second EBF Congress in Amsterdam. In 1968 she was present at the WCC Assembly in Uppsala, Sweden, representing the Diakonia network. This was followed by a world trip representing Diakonia to Chicago, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth returning home via Bangkok and Bombay.
In 1969 she attended a Diakonia conference in Finland and in 1969 an EBF conference in Vienna. In 1969 she left the service of the BU and became Pastor at Dalston and Salters Hall in Islington. In 1977 she moved pastorate to the West Coventry Baptist Fellowship, serving with the Revd Pat Ingle and Pastor Peter Rees until 1985. She attended the EBF Congress in Brighton in 1979.
In 1982 Margaret was appointed Chair of the Baptist Union Ministerial Recognition Committee and became a representative of the Baptist Union on the British Council of Churches and Free Church Federal Council.
Margaret had felt a particular vocation to the life of prayer and in 1983 became a Novice, then Oblate of the Community of St Mary the Virgin at Wantage, where Sister Margaret Magdalen (Margaret Evening) a former BMS Missionary was a community member.
In 1985 Margaret suffered a severe viral attack which was to grow worse and was later diagnosed as ME and was to restrict her physical activities, though not her ministry and prayer ministry. She concluded her ministry in West Coventry, but continued with her work for the British Council of Churches and Free Church Federal Council.
Another first for Margaret was becoming the first female Baptist minister to assume the Vice Presidency (1986) and then the Presidency of the Baptist Union. Her Presidential address and theme (Bradford, 1987) on Prayer and Action was a stimulus for the forming the Baptist Union Retreat Group. It is rare for any lasting initiative to come out of a BU Presidential Year, and this is another first we can assume. She was its first Chair, serving until 1993.
In 1988, after her presidential year, Margaret accepted the call to King’s Stanley (part time) and developed her ministry of leading retreats and of spiritual direction. By 1990 the diagnosis of ME was fully confirmed and Margaret was advised to retire early on health grounds. She moved into a property of the Retired Baptist Minister’s Housing Society.
Margaret was approached by Evelyn Pritty who felt a call to live in community. Margaret herself had begun to feel a call to the life of a hermit. However, after much thought and prayer the Community of the Prince of Peace was established at Carterton with Margaret and Evelyn being received as Postulants at a service in Burford Priory in April 1997, presided over by the Prior and with myself as preacher. Their first profession was in March 1999. The Community, having received another postulant, moved to Riddings in Derbyshire in May 1999.
The small community never grew and though there were many good aspects to it – the first Baptist community in England engaged in communal living – Margaret still felt the call to a hermit life. In April 2001 Prior Stuart and myself reviewed the community and it began to become clear that the Community either needed to grow or change.
In December 2001 Sister Margaret was consecrated as a hermit – another English Baptist first - and her hermitage dedicated. By August 2002 the Monastery at Riddings was sold and Evelyn withdrew from the Community. In March 2003 Margaret made her final profession as a religious at Burford Priory and more fully immersed herself in the life of a hermit, seeking guidance from other hermits living on the Lyn Peninsula. Over the following years Sister Margaret continued her vocation undaunted by her ill-health, though moving from Derbyshire to Devon and eventually to Yatton in Somerset. She died in a nursing home there on Easter Day evening, 1 April, 2018.
We remember with gratitude the Revd Sister Margaret Jarman, hermit, sister in the Community of the Prince of Peace, former Deaconess of the Baptist Union, former President of the Union, ecumenist. We rejoice that we knew her in life and praise God that for her earthly struggle is at an end and she is at peace with Him whom she trusted in 1950 at Moulton Baptist Church.
Keith G Jones
April 1 2018.