Margaret Higson, who died on 13 April 2015, was our pastoral secretary and had served ArtServe and its predecessor MCMS in that capacity for many years.
She was also administrator for the ArtServe long service awards, which are given to those recognised by their local church for their outstanding contribution to the arts in worship. Margaret co-ordinated the paperwork, liaised with our calligrapher, and ensured the certificate was delivered in time, often taking it along herself to represent ArtServe at the presentation.
Margaret served MCMS (the Methodist Church Music Society) prior to ArtServe’s formation. She was elected to its committee in 1996 and the following year was appointed as its first Pastoral Secretary. Margaret described her new role as being a link between the Executive Committee and the members.
Margaret ran the ArtServe prayer circle and regularly sent beautifully hand-crafted cards for birthdays and other celebrations. She offered our congratulations when they were due and was the first to offer friendship and support together with words of comfort and sympathy to bereaved families. By linking the MCMS executive and the ArtServe board with the members, Margaret gave us all a much closer fellowship as we were able to share those happy and sad times as appropriate and pray with her to support our members.
As well as this – which may already sound like a full time job – Margaret regularly attended MCMS conferences and ArtServe festivals, joining in enthusiastically. She played the organ and piano and was quick to offer her services when a pianist was needed.
We recognise and are grateful that Margaret’s service to MCMS and ArtServe was not a duty, it was a vocation for which she was gifted. We will find Margaret hard to replace, quietly getting on and facing all the challenges life threw at her with great courage and faith. She was still responding to emails to the end, thanking us for flowers received, letting us know how delighted she was to receive them and wishing us a blessed Easter, still thinking of others.
Margaret has left us a legacy in the prayer circle which we will continue. We will keep up and expand the long service awards, the honour of creating and tradition of delivery she has been guardian of on our behalf.
Counsellor, encourager, colleague, secretary, craftsperson, supporter and friend. Margaret is irreplaceable, greatly missed and we are blessed for having been in her world.
Marion Saunders, former MCMS secretary, writes:
Margaret and I first met at Southlands Teacher Training College in 1966, where we found ourselves in neighbouring rooms in Berry House. Everybody on our floor had a surname beginning with H. This included Higson, Howe (that's me) and Sue Hodgkiss. Sue and Margaret became very good friends, indeed Margaret always said that Sue was more like a sister to her than a friend and that close friendship lasted right until Margaret's final days in the hospice.
Margaret and I left Southlands to begin our teaching careers and we did not meet again until Robert was sent to work in the Bolton and Rochdale District. Robert had not yet learnt to drive and he had a preaching appointment out in the wild region of Edgworth! Transport had been arranged and the kindly driver arrived at our house and knocked on the door. It was Margaret. We looked at each other in amazement, and set off in Margaret's beloved Mini and of course talked all the way there. At that time Margaret was working at NCH Crowthorne School just outside Edgworth, set in the beautiful but bleak moorland. The work was challenging but Margaret gave all of her time and energy to the children resident at the school.
Margaret made many crafty bits and pieces for our two children Rebekah and James, including some ladybird pencil tops. Thereafter she was always known by our children as 'Ladybird Margaret'.
On leaving Crowthorne, Margaret continued to take piano pupils, became Synod Secretary, volunteered with the Citizens Advice Bureau, and developed the music at the chapel. She was both organist and choir director and the Christmas carol services were legendary. She was overjoyed to have some involvement in the 2014 carol service.
I took one of my first music/singing workshops with Margaret. She organised everything! The workshop was called 'Something for nothing' and all the words that we used were sung in either new ways or to tunes that did not need copyright approval. I learnt a lot from working with her.
We finally moved on from Bolton and did not meet Margaret again until both of us found ourselves attending an MCMS conference. We spent many happy years together on the committee and Margaret took on the new role of Pastoral Officer for MCMS and later for ArtServe.
She took time and effort to support and pray for those in need of prayer and remembrance, encouraging others to join her.
Margaret was a truly lovely, thoughtful person, living out her Christian faith in so many ways. She gave generously of her time and energy, often at some cost to her health. I will miss her chirpy voice enormously and she will be missed by all who knew her, especially the church family at Edgworth.
A service of thanksgiving for Margaret's life was held at Edgworth Methodist Church on Monday 20 April 2015. ArtServe was represented at the service by John Bailey, former MCMS and ArtServe secretary, and the Revd Nick Young, former MCMS chair.
John Bailey writes:
It was a most uplifting service which, as may have been expected, had been carefully crafted by Margaret herself in the five pages of instructions she had left for the day, and the discussions that she had recently had with her minister.
The church was packed with people whose lives had been blessed by knowing Margaret. The hymns she had chosen were I come with joy to meet my Lord; O God, you search me and you know me; I know that my Redeemer lives; and finally Thine be the glory. The readings were Psalm 121 and Matthew 5:1-12. The augmented choir sang Take this moment, sign, and space and the closing organ voluntary was Sheep may safely graze by JS Bach.
The ArtServe appreciation was read the minister and my presence representing ArtServe acknowledged. Much of the focus of the tributes was Margaret’s great gift of pastoral care at so many levels and to so many different people. At Margaret’s request there was a separate sermon, with the message that she wanted relayed, that God loves us and we must all spread his love.