New Year's honours for Baptists
A tireless community worker, one of "the most dynamic social reformers of our age", a champion of inter-faith relations in diverse Leicester and an internationally-renown lawyer were among the Baptists recognised in the New Year’s Honours List
Rose Peaty MBE
Rose Peaty was awarded the MBE for services to the community in Blakeney, Gloucestershire, where her tireless work for more than 30 years has led her being known locally as “Aunty Rose”.
A committed Baptist from her teenage years, Rose’s first community project was to support refurbishment of the local Baptist chapel and develop it as a base to support youth work and a ‘Drop-in’ work skills programme. The programme has helped generations of children to improve their qualifications and find employment.
In 2009 she founded the Blakeney Community Green project with Ewart Woolley to develop a community all-weather path round the village green, create additional play areas for local children, establish a community café, build a nature trail and provide access to ‘conservation woodland’.
The process saw £100,000 raised from major donors including Village SOS, part of the Big Lottery fund, the Gloucestershire Environmental Trust, and enlisted the Gloucester Wildlife Trust.
Rose also successfully built support from the whole community included local schools, businesses and other smaller donors.
The work was completed within four years, and Rose ran the café for the best part of a year until recently. (Rose is pictured on top of the new community cafe).
During this time Rose supported another successful parallel project to create the Soudley-Blakeney Gateway, a series of linked footpaths which re-establish an ancient three-mile route up the Soudley Valley.
But that's not all. Rose has worked tirelessly for many other community projects, such as the Blakeney defibrillator project and more new play equipment, reinvigorated the Blakeney Baptist Luncheon Club (pictured), which now serves around 60 people each week, ran summer games days for local children and even supported the annual Blakeney duck race!
As well as thanking all the other volunteers and fundraisers, she said she has been simply doing “what the Lord expected”. Following the closure of Blakeney Baptist Church, Rose now attends Lydney Baptist Church in Gloucester.
Hilary Willmer MBE
Hilary Willmer in Leeds received the MBE for voluntary service to Disadvantaged Communities in West Yorkshire.
In 1986 Hilary, a member of Moortown Baptist Church in Leeds, set up the Leeds and Moortown Furniture Store to provide good quality second-hand furniture, free of charge, to those in Leeds who needed it. The furniture store marks its 30th anniversary this year.
The following year she responded to the need for emergency accommodation for young homeless people by setting up Nightstop. Despite initial scepticism Nightstop continues to exist with many schemes across the country.
In 1996 Hillary founded CROP, the Coalition for the Removal of Pimping, alongside Irene Ivison, the mother of a murdered 17-year-old prostitute. Irene died after complications from a routine operation in 2000, but driven by Hilary, CROP and its work continued. It has a long history of working collaboratively with the police and social services, and is the only organisation nationally that supports the parents of children who are sexually exploited, working with hundreds of families. It's now known as Pace – Parents against child sexual exploitation. Moortown's minister Graham Brownlee is the current chair of trustees.
Hilary has also campaigned on the issue of human trafficking. At the 2006 Baptist Assembly in Brighton she presented a resolution which called on the Government to make it an offence for men to profit from procuring girls and women for sex. The resolution, which was passed by delegates, also called on the Government to sign the Council of Europe Convention on Action against trafficking, and urged churches to increase their awareness of the issue, to lobby parliament and pray.
Writing on the Moortown Baptist Church's website, her friend and successor as Leeds and Moortown Furniture Store Chair of Trustees, John Sherbourne, described Hilary as 'not only one of the most dynamic social reformers of our age, but when it comes to getting results, one of the most effective.'
He also spoke of Hilary's modesty. 'I’ve just exchanged texts with Hillary; me congratulating her, she not surprisingly replying by saying she feels “rather embarrassed” and asking me to make sure I mention all the others who are part of the story.'
Hilary was a Baptist Union Council member for 14 years from 1998.
Christine Swan MBE
Chris Swan from Oadby Baptist Church has been awarded an MBE for services to education and inter-faith relations in Oadby, Leicestershire.
Oadby is a diverse part of Leicester, she explained, where wonderful people of all faiths and none are committed to making a real difference, and where God is already at work in the community.
'I've been really fortunate in being able to join in with what he's already doing in the schools and the wider community and have found genuine friendships growing out of a common commitment to seeing Oadby flourish,' said Chris, who is a member of the Baptist Inter-Faith Working Group.
'The call to truth and justice, particularly in the current climate where some wonderful friends are being misjudged simply for being Muslim, leads me to get involved with shared projects to develop community cohesion which is strong enough to withstand attacks borne out of fear or ignorance.'
Chris is also chair of Lionheart Academies Trust which includes some schools beyond our local community facing challenging situations. Ths involvement was partly inspired by a comment by Jim Wallis in a talk at Greenbelt 'loving your neighbour is about loving their kids as much as you love your own'.
All of this is made possible by having a husband who is wonderfully supportive and is happy for me to be free to operate as a full time volunteer, and by being part of Oadby Baptist Church which is a hugely encouraging and loving family. I'm very blessed!'
Writing in the Baptist Collaboration Group, Alexandra Nance said, 'Chris has been a school governer for well over a decade, including being chair of governers for two schools at once, and has worked very closely with the local Muslim association to help promote community values and cohesion.
'She was also my Sunday school teacher and youth leader, friend, counsellor, and hot chocolate procurer, and has played a big role in bringing plenty of children and young people to faith, and helping to keep us there. We're all super chuffed for her!'
Sir Malcolm Evans
Professor Malcolm Evans from the University of Bristol Law School was awarded a knighthood his services to torture prevention and religious freedom. Sir Malcolm, husband of Baptist minister the Revd Dr Alison Evans, had been awarded the OBE in 2004.
An internationally-known lawyer, he has worked worked extensively on human rights issues for numerous international bodies and NGOs and is currently a member and Chair of the United Nations Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture. Its work includes visiting places of detention around the world, speaking with detainees, finding out how they are treated and working confidentially with those governments to try to ensure they are not ill-treated.
The Foreign Secretary’s overseas New Year Honours list describes his 'exceptional and unparalleled contribution to the global fight against torture and other inhuman treatment and punishment and a consistently strong contribution to the promotion of religious liberty.'
It added, 'He has worked tirelessly and voluntarily over a sustained period at the international level to advance human rights.
'It was a delightful surprise, and really nice to have recognition of the work I’ve been doing for the past 20 years,' said Sir Malcolm in a Bristol University press release. 'It’s also nice to have the importance of the subject matter recognised because a lot of our work goes under the radar due to its sensitive nature.'
Brian Stone MBE
Brian Stone, a member of Milton Malsor Baptist Church in Northamptonshire, was awarded a British Empire Medal for service to the community in Northampton.
He told the Northampton Chronicle he was “absolutely amazed” by the award.
‘I had been out shopping when I returned to find a letter from the Cabinet Office on the mat,’ he said.
‘I was amazed. I don’t really know what I have done to deserve it. My wife Hilary deserves a lot of credit as she has been very understanding when I have spent time volunteering on Christmas and Boxing Day.’
That reference to volunteering relates to Brian's visiting of lonely and elderly patients this Christmas, despite suffering from prostate cancer himself. He has been a volunteer with the Friends of Northampton General Hospital since 2001, where he also drives the passenger buggy and helps outpatients and visitors with limited mobility.
Brian, now 77 and previously manager of the housing advice centre at Northampton Borough Council, has served a range of charities and organisations in Northampton for more than 20 years. He began volunteering with the Northampton Association for the Blind in 1993, and still regularly visits blind people at home to provide company and support.
Before joining Milton Malsor Baptist Church, Brian was heavily involved both with Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Northampton, where he ran the Sunday School in the 1980s.
In total 1,196 people received an award in this year's honours. Follow this link for more