We will miss and remember Jill as a generous, gracious, godly and gentle woman – a person of rare integrity and transparency; someone who was the same, and said the same, to everyone, without falseness, fear or favour.
John met Jill on his first visit to Icomb to look at a possible retirement cottage for him and Jean. While waiting for the estate agent to arrive he went down to the village church where he found Jill and John Byrom planning the following Sunday’s service. After a brief welcome to the village Jill immediately asked if I could come back on Sunday to play the organ!
I failed that spot test, but over the next 10 years succumbed to Jill’s gradual gentle persuasion to read Bible lessons, lead intercessions, become Church Treasurer, and eventually to join her as one of the two Church Wardens. I learned a great deal from Jill’s calm attention to detail, colour and order in the weekly preparation of the church, and from her gift of working behind the scenes to provide this necessary structure for those (including Tim as lay minister) who led the services from the front of house.
Although a traditionalist in many ways, Jill was surprisingly open to innovation, and fully supportive as we worked together to try to open up and link the church to the whole local community (through jazz concerts, drama, bonfire parties, house groups, pub nights, walks etc)
Jill and Tim then lived in Icomb Place, a 15th century Medieval Manor House, to which they invited the whole village for regular concerts, Christmas carols, parties – with Jill quietly organising teams of tea makers, cake-bakers, and sandwich-makers to feed everyone. Their hospitality extended to many other visitors to the village (from Harvard professors to community leaders from South Sudan) and we became firm friends.
Jill and Tim warmly welcomed Nagomoro Bridget and other IGBS Trustees (Bp Wilson Kamani, Fr Stephen Kumyangi, Hon Pia Philip) into their home when they visited the UK in 2011 and in 2015; welcomed them to speak (in Zande and English) at many church services in the Cotswolds; attended most FIGS AGM’s; donated regularly through the family’s Deus Laudamus Trust; wrote to others encouraging them to contribute to FIGS through the Big Give; and supported Bridget personally when she came to the UK to study for an MA in International Development at the Open University.
It has been a lovely, lively, but unlikely friendship – with Jill and Tim coming from an aristocratic background with rural interests, (hunting, eventing, beagling, sheep rearing) and libertarian Conservative beliefs, and me and Jean as vegetarian Christian socialists! Tim enjoyed the challenge of cut and thrust debate and disagreement on many such issues, while Jill kept us rooted in her calm assurance that good friendship went deeper that differences of ideas.
So, Jill we will miss you, and remember you with great fondness – a fine person and a life well lived!
Jean Hartley and John Benington, January 2021