by Rosalind Lund
from Signs of the Times No. 56 - Jan 2015

Christina Tebbutt, who died on 2nd July 2014, was a long serving member of Modern Church.  Her parents, Mary and Herbert Pettit, joined the Modern Churchmen’s Union (as it then was) sometime in the 1920s, so Christina was brought up in a liberal and free thinking Christian home.

Her mother had been brought up a Congregationalist, but by the time Christina was born, they were living in the Northamptonshire village of Boughton and had joined the village parish church.

By the 1950s Mary had become quite frail, and Christina and her husband Simon were delighted to attend the MCU conferences initially to support Herbert.  They became keen members themselves and Simon was eventually elected to the Council and later became Vice Chairman, a position he held for many years.

Christina herself loved attending conferences, both for the friends she made there and for the intellectual stimulation of the lectures.  She and Simon continued going to conferences for many years, latterly with the support of their daughter Rosalind, and it was a great disappointment when health problems meant she was no longer well enough to go to High Leigh.

After the tragedy of her brother’s early death in a road accident in 1951, and the birth of two daughters, Christina was persuaded to take a more active role in church life herself.  In the 1940s she was elected to the Peterborough Diocesan Conference and in about 1956 the Archdeacon suggested that she should stand for election to the General Assembly of the Church of England.  In 1970 when the General Synod replaced the General Assembly and the laity were enabled to play a full role in the governance of the Church of England, Christina was again elected to represent the lay members of Peterborough Diocese.  In fact she was the only woman among four lay representatives and five clergy, and she worked hard not only to represent the views of lay people but also to battle the cause of women priests.  She would have been thrilled to know of the final General Synod decision on women as bishops (the news came through just after her death). She was a force to be reckoned with in the diocese and although this was not always a comfortable place to be she was determined to stand up both for women and the laity.

When Simon retired from the leather trade in 1987 he offered himself for ministry.  Christina threw herself fully into his new life and gave up all her own commitments to support him.  This involved a rather lonely year while he studied at Queens College Birmingham and was away from home during the week.  They shared the joys and sorrows of his ministry first at St Matthew’s Church, Northampton and later at Duston before going to the Houghtons, and they made many new friends. They were very involved with the fund-raising campaign for Holy Sepulchre Church and both were long-time supporters of the Royal British Legion.

In addition to a full life with family and church, Christina always found time to build and share in community in the village in which she had grown up and where she lived most of her life.  She and Simon finally left the village in 2009 when they moved to a retirement flat in Northampton.  Sadly, only six months after they moved, her beloved partner of nearly 60 years died.  She stayed on in the flat for another year, but found it increasingly lonely without Simon and, in 2010, moved to Cambridge to live with her daughter and son in law where she was able to enjoy seeing the wider family and especially her two great grand-daughters.

Her funeral service was held at Great Warley church just outside Brentwood when, in addition to family memories, former General Secretary of Modern Church, Nick Henderson enlivened proceedings with his memories of Christina at Modern Church conferences.

It was a happy occasion and an opportunity to celebrate a faithful life well lived.