Rev Walker and his wife, Clara, lived at no 54 St James Road, where Muriel was born in 1925, at a time when there was still gaslight in the church! Her favourite teacher was Miss Ada Reynard, who herself was a member here from 1916-88. Muriel belonged to the Youth Group, and became a Sunday School teacher herself in her teenage years – one of our current OPTIONS members, Angela Smith, was a pupil in her class. Muriel would book people out of the local workhouse to come to church services, and the family also entertained German POWs at the manse! Her mother died in the mid-1940s, and with the family having moved to 2 Swiss Avenue, Muriel acted as hostess making endless cups of tea for people visiting her father.
Muriel married her husband, Ken, in 1948, with five SJR ministers, including her father, participating in the service! Five children were born over the following years: Anthony (1950), Nicholas (1953), Julian (1955), Michelle (who died shortly after birth in 1962) and Melvyn (1964) – who is still in membership here to continue the family connection. Church Anniversaries were celebrated annually in those years, a full day affair, so Muriel & Ken and their four sons would base themselves with Ken’s mother in St James Road throughout the whole event. Muriel was also in charge of making sure that every child received a gift at Christmas. In addition, she was actively involved in hospital visiting.
During the 1950s, Muriel laid the foundation stone at the new Church Hall in memory of her parents; she sang in the Treble Clefs women’s choir set up in the late ‘50s, during Rev Norman Archer’s tenure; and played the organ in midweek for funeral services. She also typed up the Weekly News for decades, which for several years Ken (who died in the mid-70s) would send off to printers in Burnley with a weekly turnaround!
She started and led the Women’s Meeting for many decades, with Susan Tang now being the last surviving member. She was also a regular speaker at other Churches’ Women’s Meetings, walking long distances up to Bushey and back.
In more recent decades, Muriel ran the crèche for the Wives Group, latterly Oasis. She regularly attended House Groups throughout their various reorganisations down through the years, and was in a party from SJR which visited Pastor Joao Nunes’ church in Lisbon during the 1980s. She also attended Church Camps at Corfe Castle and Bexhill-on-Sea, the two Church Away Weekends at High Leigh, and never missed a social event! She also served on the SJR Leadership Team from 1999-2009, the first elected woman leader of the church.
Finally, in more recent years, she became the welcoming face of SJR at the Church Hall door at the Toddler Group and Messy Church, also ensuring that no children might escape and run out into the road. She fulfilled this role until just a few weeks before her passing.
In these days of increased mobility, it might be rare in future for an individual to spend his/her entire life in service at one church, so SJR has been blessed to have this great servant lady in its midst for over 85 years. We will all miss her greatly, but rejoice in her memory. Her funeral took place on Tuesday 26 February 2013.