Our church plant began back in April 1997. We had a meeting prior to starting the church in the March, for people interested in helping us plant the church.
One lady, Eileen Winyard, arrived at our house, having heard about the Church plant, from a Christian carpenter, working on her house. He told her about what we were doing, and gave her the details of where we were meeting.
And so Eileen came into our lives. Her husband had just died, and she had moved into the town where we lived, and felt a call from God to join us and help us. Most of you reading this will never have heard of Eileen, or met her. Yet without Eileen our Church plant wouldn't be where it is today, and I wouldn't be doing what I am doing in life and ministry today.
I mentioned many years ago that the greatest privilege I would have, would be in being around long enough to burying those people who helped us start the Church. And today, I enter into that privilege.
Eileen, was my volunteer administrator, virtual officing in 1997 for me, whilst I commuted into and out of London with my day job, and evenings and weekends spent time on planting the Church.
Today, I get to share some of the things I learned from Eileen...
Despite her recent loss of her husband, Eileen, threw herself into giving. Giving to a new church plant, her time, energy and money. Eileen modelled what it was to pour yourself out for others.
Eileen was a lady of prayer. Always praying, always framing the events of her life through the language of scripture. When I think about her almost 15 years of praying for me, for our family for our Church, the weight of those prayers are almost palpable.
Struggle and Growth
And Eileen was within that giving and praying, always contending for the gospel. The journey of church planting, with the re-contexualisation of the gospel and her faith, led to much wrestling and so many private conversations with me, about what she learning, and how she was growing. I shall miss those conversations. Up to the day she died, she was struggling, but reading, reflecting, and talking about what she was learning.
Just a few hours before she died, my wife was with her, reading Eileen's own daily devotionals to her, which that day included Psalm 139 'All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.' My wife tells me that on hearing that Eileen, who had been mostly unconscious, opened her eyes and remarked with a smile, 'how wonderful'.
Eileen has joined the cloud of great witnesses.
Hebrews 12: 1: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
The photos is of Eileen with her husband Dennis, when they were national ballroom dancing champions.