'Faithfulness over 100 years is an amazing testimony to God’s grace'
Fred Atkins was born in Southend on 22 March 1922. At only five days old he was brought to Belle Vue Baptist Church for the first time.
One hundred years later, Fred is still a part of the church. As a church we’re celebrating his life and long association here, writes minister Andy Goodliff
Fred’s family were part of the church. As a child his mother, Dorothy, was present at the church’s opening service in 1902. She was involved in selling paper bricks, so that the church might be built brick by brick. (The church was built and opened in 1913.)
He attended the Sunday School, and every week he had to tell his grandmother what he had learned. Fred made the decision to follow Christ on 31 March 1935 aged 13; he was baptised on 26 March 1939 aged 17.
That same year he was called up to join the army, and fought in World War II in Egypt and Italy. He was the only one of those who joined up from Belle Vue to survive and return home. He left the army in 1949. There is a film of Churchill visiting some troops, in which Fred was at the end of the line, and he and the then Prime Minister had a chat.
After leaving the army Fred returned to Southend and Belle Vue. He got a job at British Telecom, at the beginning installing telephone lines. At the church he became a sidesman, responsible for welcoming people to services.
On one holiday with a friend in Paignton, Devon he met a girl named Pam from Bristol. They fell in love and Fred made regular weekend trips to Bristol, having to find someone to cover his church duties. They were married on 6 September 1952.
Living in Southend, to help look after Fred’s mum, they made their home. They would have two children, Janice and Ruth.
Over the years Fred has been a Sunday School Teacher, a Deacon, including stints as Church Secretary and also Church Treasurer. Much of his and Pam’s life have been associated with the church community.
Fred retired in 1984 after 37 years with BT and became an active grandparent to Andrew, Anita, Richard and Fiona. He also joined the church choir and continues still to regularly sing with Pam in a choir run by his daughter. Although Fred’s health has struggled over the last few years, Fred, with Pam, still often make it to Sunday worship and the mid-week Bible Study, and we were glad when their family helped get them on zoom during the lockdown at the beginning of 2021.
Fred’s faithfulness to God, to church, to family, and to nation, over 100 years is an amazing testimony to God’s grace. We are thankful for all he has given over those years to the life of the church and celebrate with him and his family on a special birthday.
Andy Goodliff is minister of Belle Vue Baptist Church, Southend-on-Sea
Fred in the church choir during the 1980s - he is the third man from the right.
Fred's army regiment - he is in then middle row, second in from the right.