‘A person of quiet, strong, courageous faith’
Tributes have been paid to the Revd Barbara Stanford MBE, a longtime minister at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, who has died aged 81
Barbara had initially come to the church as a deaconess in 1961, and was a minister there until 2001. She remained at the church for several years before moving to Suffolk in retirement. During her time in London she received the MBE for her pastoral services to the local community.
The Revd Dr Brian Haymes was a colleague in the early 2000s. He paid this tribute:
It was a great privilege to have been Barbara’s colleague in ministry. She first came to Bloomsbury as a new short term placement as Deaconess but stayed for the rest of her life. Simply put, she lived for others, deeply committed to the cause of Christ in the city. I was constantly inspired by her. She sacrificed herself in such ways that she became an example of ministry I have never seen matched.
She was a person of quiet strong courageous faith, fearless in those critical situations that can emerge for a church open to all comers, compassionate in ways that went ways beyond easy sentiment into strong engaged love. She valued all people as Jesus did in the Gospels, with welcome care for all; bag ladies, homeless people, vulnerable young, politicians, captains of industry, finance and academics, all who make up the daily life of the Bloomsbury church. She took time with individuals, responding with steady compassion.
She was notoriously careless of things for herself, sometimes creating situations where others would be full of personal embarrassment but producing only laughter from herself. For her, people always came first.
She made huge contributions to local hospitals as a chaplain. When I arrived towards the end of her ministry at the church it seemed as if everyone knew her, in the caring professions, ecumenically, politically.
She shared in the leading of worship and the congregation knew there the depth of her prayers, evidence of her wide reading especially in the traditions of contemplative prayer.
There was a wholeness about her life and ministry that was beautiful to witness. She was a joy to be with, a minister who served God in the church and the world through the people she met.
I think I learned more about ministry from her than anyone else. She was a gift of God to us.
Another former colleague was the Revd Barrie Hibbert, a minister at Bloomsbury between 1987-99. ‘Barbara could not have been a more faithful and helpful colleague,’ he said. ‘Neither could she have been a closer and dearer friend.’
He added, ‘I was always deeply impressed with her great love for the church and all its people. Whenever she spoke from the pulpit or in the office or in the dining room, her words were always thoughtful, sincere and kind ... and often amusing!
‘I was even more deeply impressed by her wonderful attitude towards the hundreds of poor and needy people with whom she had contact on the streets of London.’
In an interview for the church’s website in 2006, Barbara spoke of the church’s acceptance of people of all walks of life, its high standard of music, the constant commitment of volunteers and 'the sense of the church as a family supporting one another in the dark times as well as enjoying with them good times, fun, laughter and teasing!’
Other highlights had included Martin Luther King preaching at the church in the 1960s, the Dalai Lama speaking at a multi-faith service, and Cardinal Basil Hume preaching at a Sunday morning service.
The Revd Dr Simon Woodman, is one of the current ministers at Bloomsbury. He said, ‘Although I only knew Barbara in retirement in Ipswich, she demonstrated an unfailing pastoral care for the people of Bloomsbury. Her cheery phone messages - 'no need to call back, love, just calling to see how you are', always seemed to arrive at exactly the right time.
‘I often suspected that she had her finger on the pulse of the church more firmly than I did.’