The Revd Dr Rosemary J M Kidd: 1948-2022
'A life-long pilgrim on the way of Jesus'
Rosemary was born in Oxford on 29 August 1948, daughter of Swithin and Marion Margetson. She was baptised, so she told us, in a silver punchbowl in Magdalen College, Oxford, where her father was a student. Her paternal grandfather, the Revd William Margetson, also educated at Oxford, had been Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral (Episcopal) in Edinburgh.
Most of her growing years were spent in and around Guildford, and it was there that many of the themes which would run through her life first began to take shape. The Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra, then under Vernon Handley, launched her love of music and singing; and the rich flora and fauna of the Surrey Downs fired her life-long passion for the natural world.
At University in Swansea, Rosemary’s intellectual horizons were expanded in the Department of Zoology, with its special focus on Marine Biology. As she put it: the study of worms in the nutrient-rich mud of Swansea Bay, with all their intricate beauty, went hand in hand with her radical commitment to Christian discipleship, a life-long pilgrim on the way of Jesus. She was baptised ‘as a believer’ in Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Swansea, by Glyn Morris, immersed both in water and in the fervent welsh hymnody that never ceased to inspire her. She sang with the Orpheus Choir and in 1969, memorably, at the investiture of Prince Charles in Caernarfon Castle.
At Hughes Hall in Cambridge, she trained as a teacher, beginning her teaching career at Ely High School, later to become Head of Biology at Lady Edridge Girls High School in South Norwood. Rosemary was an intuitive educator.
First meeting Richard ‘across a table’ at the wedding of mutual friends, her own wedding took place in the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, accompanied by King’s College Choir, at that time conducted by David Wilcox. 1972 marked the centenary of the birth Ralph Vaughan Williams, and his music, which featured so strongly in the service, permeated her life ever after.
Taking further opportunities to teach whenever other commitments allowed, much of the next two decades were devoted to four growing children: Peter, Andrew, Simon and Hannah. She never ceased developing her own gifts: as musician and singer, and researching the wonders of the natural world.
It was during those years that she also began to exercise her own embryonic Christian ministries in the various church communities where she made her home: Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire, Kenton in North London, Eynsham in Oxfordshire, Theydon Bois in Essex and latterly Urmston in Manchester.
It was in Manchester that, in the 1980s, once again two major developments unfolded side by side. The way that Rosemary dealt with her own surgery for breast cancer was inseparable from her growing conviction that she was being called to become a Christian minister and, perhaps one day, a hospital chaplain. She completed both Master’s and Doctoral Degrees in the Education Department of Manchester University, simultaneously gaining a First Class Honours Degree in Contextual Theology through Luther King House, also affiliated to the University of Manchester.
Rosemary revelled in being a ‘minister in training’, becoming deeply involved in her many placements around Manchester and its churches. In later years she would draw extensively on her experience in South Africa where, on a student bursary, she had explored church communities in the Baptist Convention of South Africa, a newly born gathering of congregations committed to empowerment for all who had lived through the injustices of the apartheid years.
She had ministries at Newall Green Baptist Church in Wythenshawe, including a hospital chaplaincy. She became a training and development officer for The Methodist Church, her area covering the whole of the north west region. She then worked nationally for the Baptist Union of Great Britain, serving the ecumenical Joint Public Issues Team in London. In 2008, Rosemary was part of an ecumenical team that visited communities and leaders in Israel and Palestine, following which she could often be recognised proudly wearing a symbol of Palestinian Solidarity. At every stage she immersed herself in issues of deprivation, social exclusion, political injustice and diverse causes for freedom.
From the 1980s onwards, she was hugely shaped by feminism, and became widely committed to the empowerment of women. Her doctorate, entitled Becoming a Woman, had looked at models of education and their subsequent impact on the development of girls and young women. Years later, the opportunity to spend several months in Kolkata, living alongside women trapped in the brutality of India’s sex-trade, allowed her to put decades of experience to work in new and creative ways.
In recent years, after retiring from paid employment in 2012, Rosemary has been deeply committed to the wider community in and around Whaley Bridge, her home for nearly 20 years. She was an active member of the local Labour Party. She served in the Uniting Church on a ministry team, and more recently became very much involved in the life of Whaley Bridge Parish Church. She was ever the herald of everything ecumenical. She steered a Christian Aid initiative to raise £5,000 for a project in Burkina Faso, and has been energetically committed to the work of Climatise and a Bio-diversity Group, both based in Whaley Bridge. She wrote innumerable letters to MPs, her words invariably leading to action, ardently campaigning for justice, peace and freedom – for all people. After the funeral of Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the turn of 2022, Rosemary began to organise a local ecumenical initiative to celebrate Tutu’s life, and to promote the values she so much admired in his remarkable ministry. For the moment, this initiative is on hold, but there are already others looking to run with her vision.
It might sound as if Rosemary’s life was one long struggle to meet the demands of her resolute convictions - but nothing could be further from the truth. Rosemary loved Scottish Country Dancing, dancing each week and, annually, participating in a challenging summer school in St Andrews. She loved travel: in Europe, especially France; in Australia and New Zealand; as also as in South Africa and India. The news of her untimely death has brought messages from all around the world. They express shock and sadness, but they are consistently laden with memories of laughter and fun.
Rosemary did not like the idea of ‘bucket lists’ - and then proceeded to create one with a single entry – a long-overdue visit to New Zealand, where she could delight in its unique flora and fauna. A whole month in New Zealand finally came about in the autumn of 2018, only 18 months before Covid began seriously to limit world travel. She saw sperm whales from a helicopter, came face to face with Kiwis in a dark forest, and worshipped her Creator in the Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch. She was in her element; and her minimalist bucket list was complete.
Rosemary died suddenly and unexpectedly on 24 January 2022. She had lived a life of abundance. She leaves behind: nine grandchildren (Leah, Joel, Ethan, Petra, Alma, Amelie, Samuel, Mary-Kate and Cecilia); four married children (Peter, Andrew, Simon and Hannah); and her life-long partner in marriage (Richard). She loved them all deeply, and her love will continue to live and bear fruit in their lives for the rest of their days.