'Called to Serve'

The stories of the ordinands of St Faith's, Great Crosby

Patricia Joyce Betts (nee Bennett)

My Roots in St Faith's

I may be one of the first women priests with my roots in St Faith's. I began coming to St Faith's with my parents and baby brother just after the Second World War ended. I must have been about 3 years old and my Sunday School teacher was called Mona. I had been baptised in the United Reformed Church church during the war because Mersey Road Methodist Church had been bombed, this was where my grandparents worshipped. My father Gordon Bennett taught bible study groups at St Faith's and was a server. When my brother was about 7 he was asked to be a boat boy to hold the incense container. There was a problem finding a small surplice for him. Father William Hassall was the dynamic and encouraging priest at that time.


I asked to be confirmed when I was about 11 and this preparation was brought forward because my grandfather was terminally ill and wanted to see me confirmed. I had classes with the young curate and with Miss Henderson, a retired missionary. At my confirmation I felt I was being called to do something connected with the church in the future. I read books about women being called to the religious life in convents but eventually decided to apply for a Church Teacher Training College called St Katharines in Tottenham. I worked in church primary schools and was married at St Faith's in 1965.

Many years later I felt called again, this time to serve in the church as a priest. As women priests did not yet exist in the church I prayed about this for some years, did a small amount of lay reader training in the parish of Widcombe in Bath and went to a vocations conference. Then everything moved swiftly: I went to the selection conference and to Salisbury Theological College on the distance learning course as I was working part time in Further Education. I had retrained to teach Literacy Skills to adults in the Bath College and in the community. I was ordained in 1996 as a Deacon and in 1997 as a Priest. I was asked to take full responsibility for the parish of Widcombe in 1998 as a non-stipendiary Priest, with two churches and several schools. It was a low church parish with one church having traditional services and the other contemporary services. I could not be licensed properly until arrangements had been put in place for the medical retirement of the sick incumbent. Our house became the vicarage with an allowance from the church commissioners whilst the long process of selling an old vicarage and buying a new one took place. There were several unusual factors, I didn't have the usual period as a curate and I served in the parish where I had been an active church member for 20 years. I was formally licensed in 2000 and retired in 2005. Two non-stipendiary priests followed me but very unusually the parish now has a full time priest again. One of the church buildings has always been shared with a German speaking Lutheran congregation. We did community events in my time with the local Orthodox church and some quiet days together, they now rent one of the churches in the morning and there is a Anglican Contemporary service in the evening.


I now work in retirement at St Michaels in Bath city centre which is open seven days a week and am a chaplain at Bath Abbey. I belong to a number of Art groups and Craft groups where I have a pastoral ministry and have even done a wedding and a funeral from this area of activity outside the church.

We are grateful to Patricia for supplying us with her story. It is indeed most likely that she is the first woman priest to trace her calling back to her time at St Faith's: as such she is the predecessor of four other women priests in later years and of another now getting ready to begin her training.

By way of amplification, we can add that her Sunday School teacher was Mona Turner of blessed memory (whose daughter Miriam's husband is on our list as Martin Jones!). Our archives show her marriage on 24th May, to George Valentine Betts: see the St Faith's records here. Her confirmation by the Bishop of Warrington took place at St Faith's on March 21st, 1956: see the confirmation archive here.


Our parish magazine printed the following news item in February 2011.

"William Gordon Bennett R.I.P. News has reached us of the death of William Gordon Bennett, who died on 28 December aged 93. He was a member of St Faiths from 1945-1980s. His daughter, Revd Pat Betts, who passed on the sad news, was married at St Faith's, as was her sister. She was confirmed here as well and Mona Turner was her Sunday School teacher. Later she served as a parish priest in Bath, having trained as a mature student, and she has retired. William Bennett led a bible study group for young men at St Faith‟s, some of whom went on to be priests, he was also a server for many years, and served alongside Fr Dennis Smith when the latter was a lad. My father died very peacefully at Warren Park Nursing Home."

(His firm, Bennett Safety Wear, founded in 1937, is still going strong on Mersey Road in Crosby.)

March 17th, 2015

The list of  ordinands