“But we do not you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him hose who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
In 1990, I served as a Catechist at St Paul’s Oatley. (They call it a Student Minister these days.) I was studying theology in my second year at Moore College and it was the first parish that I really had an official role in a church. The Rector was Rev Laurence Lovell. Laurence and his wife, Mary, were the most lovely, warm and hospitable ministry couple that one could have wanted for a first parish appointment. My wife and I had a delightful two years there, and our eldest child, Emily, was born at the start of the second year.
Laurence lived in Cornwall and had trained at Bristol – he often used to say to me that he sat under Jim Packer’s teaching. Laurence was always a bit of a scallywag and I think it would be fair to say that he didn’t quite have Packer’s theological acuity. Laurence served in Cornwall in the 1960s before the family moved to Oatley where they stayed for some 27 years from 1968 until 1995 when he retired. They had four boys, David, Tim, Simon and Jacob though Tim was living overseas when we were there in 1990-91.
Laurence died this month and his service was held at St Paul’s. His wife, Mary, died back in 1995. So Laurence would have had 27 years of married life here in Sydney with her, and then 27 years as a widower. I recall meeting up with Laurence 7 years ago in 2015. He was living in a retirement village and we were visiting Bill and Norma Dumbrell. It was a lovely surprise to come across him there as I had lost touch with him and my wife and I ended up having a lovely time with him. We ended up having a cuppa and chat together – I read Luke 15:3-7 and Psalm 27:1-4 with him. (I noted this in my journal that day along with the fact that while we were there, Laurence’s son, Simon, rang from Dallas airport and I had a short chat with him as well.)
I was struck by how well Laurence was looking in his elderly years (he was born in 1931 so would have been 84) and he still had that cheeky temperament. His hearing wasn’t great and he had a marvellous time stirring Norma about it. ‘Can you hear me?’ she’d say, and he’d reply ‘No, I’m not anaemic’. She was most infuriated by him – the only time I’d seen Norma thumping an elderly gentleman on the arm. These Sydney Anglican octagenarians in retirement provide lots of entertainment – certainly when Laurence was around!
My wife, Mary, and I have very fond memories of our time at Oatley. it was a rich blessing for us as we stepped out into the wider life of the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church leaving our home parishes (Barney’s Broadway, Christchurch Gladesville and St Andrew’s Wahroonga). We are filled with thanks to the Lord for the gracious and loving welcome which Laurence and Mary Lovell gave to us in those early years. Our thoughts and prayers are with the boys and their families as they grieve Laurence’s passing.
The next post is a story from the history of the Cornwall parish of St Keverne’s where Laurence served as Vicar from 1963-68.