Jessie Winifred Harris: 1928-2019
'Jessie was much loved by the members of each congregation who appreciated her quiet leadership, reassuring smile, and selfless service'
Jessie W. Harris (née Goodship), wife of the late Revd. Norman L. Harris, died peacefully, aged 91 years, surrounded by her family, on 14 December 2019.
Her quiet passing (after suffering a fall and spending time in hospital and respite care), was truly in keeping with her long life of faithful witness and service to Christ: she wanted no fuss and she was thinking of others to the very end.
Born in the village of Cotton End, near Bedford, the third child of Elsie and Amos Goodship, Jessie was brought up in the nurture of the Lord and came to faith and was baptised at Cotton End Baptist Church. She taught Sunday School, at times played the organ for services, and generally took an active part in church life. Jessie left school at 14 years of age, trained as a bookkeeper, and worked in an office in Bedford.
Following her marriage to Norman (who had also grown-up in the Cotton End Church) on 28 July 1951, they lived in London while Norman completed his studies for the Baptist ministry at Spurgeon’s College. Norman and Jessie then shared together in the ministry of the churches where Norman was pastor: Park Street, Chatteris, 1952-1957, Breachwood Green, 1957-1962, Stoke Green, Ipswich, 1962-1986, and for a time the congregation meeting at Witnesham. In 1966 she served in a wider sphere as President of the Suffolk Baptist Women’s League.
Jessie was much loved by the members of each congregation who appreciated her quiet leadership, reassuring smile, and selfless service. She was gifted at leading devotional and prayer meetings and made herself available to those needing pastoral care, but also gave her time freely to practical tasks. She was always patient and resilient and a great support to Norman and so many others.
In retirement, Norman and Jessie were members of the Bunyan Meeting in Bedford, where among other duties gladly undertaken, she greeted guests, shared in coffee mornings, and led devotional services. With Norman’s sister, Joyce, for several years, she represented the Bunyan Meeting congregation at the annual Baptist Assembly. A highly respected member of the congregation, she was much missed when, in her latter frailty, her attendance on Sundays and midweek became less frequent.
A devoted wife to Norman for 65 years, a loving mother to David, Paul and Timothy, a supportive mother-in-law, she was also a caring grandmother to five grandsons. Jessie was held in great affection by many wider family members and longstanding friends scattered far and wide, with whom she liked to stay in regular touch by letter and telephone.
A service of thanksgiving was held at Bunyan Meeting, Bedford on 14 January with the minister, Revd Chris Damp officiating and prayers offered by the Revd Stephen Copson. Jessie was laid to rest alongside Norman, and other family members, in the Cotton End Baptist Church burial ground. It is with great thanksgiving to God that we remember her life of service and witness.