27th April 2021 is the centenary of Uncle John’s birth in central London, as well as being roughly 10 years since his death. As a special podcast treat, we have dug out an old conversation Mark Meynell had back in 2013 with the one person that John’s ministry could never have done without: Frances Whitehead. Having worked for the BBC next door to All Souls Langham Place, and converted at All Souls in a process that began with her attending a lunchtime concert in the building, the church of All Souls became her life. She was recruited by Stott to be ‘Parish Secretary’ and would spend the next two decades working with him in that role (only addressing him as ‘Rector’). When his ministry began to expand, affirmed by his appointment as Rector Emeritus in 1975, not only was Frances allowed to start addressing him by his first name, but she formally became his secretary and organiser. She typed up every single one of his books from his manuscripts, fielded every phone call and managed all his correspondence, in a working partnership that lasted over 50 years. She was a force to be reckoned with and a dear friend to many around the world.
This is inevitably an edited version of the conversation - if you would like to hear the whole thing, which includes more about her own upbringing and experiences, go to Mark’s blog.
To get hold of the 2nd edition of Julia Cameron’s book, John Stott’s Right Hand: The untold story of Frances Whitehead, go directly to the publisher page.
Mark says: We had a lovely surprise a while back when a mutual friend who used to visit Frances weekly after she had moved out of London said that she wanted us to have a plant from her garden. So, just a couple of weeks ago, we planted this Peony in one of our beds - we don't have great green-fingered credentials but so far so good! It still looks alive!