16 Apr Remembering Sr Margaret Jarman (1932-2018)
A leading figure in the British Baptist Church and a close friend of Mucknell Abbey, Sr Margaret Jarman CPP BD passed away on 1st April 2018
From herdswoman to President of the Baptist Union…
Margaret was born in 1932 in Birmingham, and after leaving school trained at Northants Institute of Agriculture before working as a herdswoman in Dorridge, commuting from home each day on a motorbike. During this time she had been baptised and soon felt the call to full-time Christian service.
In 1953 she began training as a Baptist deaconess, and undertook practical work in Essex and West London before gaining the London University Certificate in Religious Knowledge. She finished her training at Carey Hall Missionary Training College and in 1959 was recognised as an Accredited Deaconess at the Baptist Assembly. She was then a member of the Pontesbury group of Baptist churches in Shropshire.
Throughout this time she worked on gaining admission to the London external Bachelor of Divinity (BD) course, learning Hebrew at Selly Oak College. In 1961 she spent time at Spurgeon’s College to complete her London BD and, although not technically counted as a ministerial student, was the first woman student at Spurgeon’s.
This was followed by service at Baptist Church House in London as Organising Secretary of the Deaconess Department, later taking on responsibility for the Baptist Union Diploma. Throughout the 1960s she represented Diakonia at a number of denominational conferences worldwide. When the decision was made in 1967 to close down the vocation of deaconesses, Margaret was ordained as Minister at Holmesdale Baptist Church in South London. From 1977 to 1985 she served as a minister with the West Coventry Baptist Fellowship, during which time she represented the Baptist Union on the British Council of Churches. In 1986 she became the first female Baptist minister to assume the Vice Presidency, and later the Presidency, of the Baptist Union. Her presidential address was to become the stimulus for the formation of the Baptist Union Retreat Group.
The Contemplative Life
For some time Margaret had felt called to a life of prayer, and in 1983 she had become a Novice Oblate at the Community of St Mary the Virgin, Wantage. After her term as BU President had finished in 1988 she took up part-time ministry at King’s stanley and developed a ministry of leading retreats and giving spiritual direction, although a diagnosis of ME led to her early retirement.
In 1997 she and Evelyn Pritty founded the Community of the Prince of Peace at Carterton in Oxfordshire, and they were both received as Postulants at a service held at Burford Priory in April of that year. Br Stuart acted as their Novice Guardian and they attended weekly session with him at the Priory. They made their first Profession in March 1999, and having received a new postulant moved to a monastery beside the parish church in Riddings, Derbyshire. This small community – the first Baptist intentional community in England – never grew any larger, and in 2001 Margaret fulfilled a long-standing call to the eremitical life. She moved out of the monastery into a small cottage and was consecretated as a hermit. In 2003 she made her Life Profession at Burford, and immersed herself in the life of a hermit from others living on the Lyn Peninsula.
She styled herself a ‘hermit associate of Burford Priory’ – and latterly ‘…of Mucknell Abbey’. Twice each year she spent a week with us here at Mucknell and was able to be present at Abbot Thomas’ Abbatial Blessing in November 2017.
She died on the evening of Easter Day. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.
[Adapted from an obituary which appeared in the Baptist Times by Keith G. Jones]