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Continuing the transcript of

Fifty Years of Sheffield Church Life
1866-1916

by
The Rev. W. Odom

[ photo ]
Hon. Canon of Sheffield


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Chapter VIII

In Memoriam. A Wreath of Love.

[ Footnote – First printed in March, 1913, for private circulation. ]


MARY ODOM.
BORN AUGUST 12TH, 1849.
FELL ASLEEP IN JESUS MARCH 5TH, 1913.
Laid to rest in the Churchyard of Christ Church, Heeley,
March 8th, 1913.

Now to the silent grave I bring
My immortelle, and interweave it
With God's own lettering –
"IN JESU CHRISTO OBDORMIVIT".
(In Jesus Christ she fell asleep.)

Under the dark cloud of sorrow, amid a sense of unspeakable loss and indescribable loneliness – longing for "the touch of a vanished hand and the sound of a voice that is still" – I seek to weave a wreath of affection for a dearly beloved one who has been called Home, one who for thirty-five years devotedly shared the labours, joys, and anxieties of my ministerial life in two large, exacting parishes. When such a sorrow comes, and so unexpectedly, one is like a crushed flower on the highway of life. Nevertheless, I am trying to look at the bow in the cloud, and hope to find comfort in my work for God, as I have done in the tenderly-expressed sympathy of a wide circle of friends.

When at the close of last year I wrote in our Parish Magazine "The New Year – what will it bring?", little did I think that it would so soon bring to me the great sorrow of my life in the loss of the best earthly gift God can give – a good wife. Someone better than myself may, I trust, in God's time succeed me in the charge of this large parish, but never will it, and especially its aged poor, have a better friend, with more sympathetic heart and kindlier hands, than the dear one who now rests from her labours, and who for nearly twenty-five years has gone in and out among its people.

She loved her Bible, and knew the power of prayer. Walking humbly with her God, and ever wearing the priceless "ornament of a meek and quiet spirit", it was joy and strength to be with her, as it will be joy and strength to remember her. The fragrance of a pure, unselfish life of loving service will attend the remaining years of my pilgrimage, and I shall realize more intensely and more fully the closing words of the Creed of Christendom, "I believe in the communion of saints". We sorrow not for the one who has been called to the higher service of the Father's House, but for those who are left behind. For the future, words of thanksgiving in our beautiful Communion Service will have a deeper meaning – "We bless Thy Holy Name for all Thy servants departed this life in Thy faith and fear; beseeching Thee to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of Thy Heavenly Kingdom".

What the dear departed one was to her Home, only those who shared its blessings know. Respecting this sacred enclosure we speak with reserve, but may say that she was the light and life of home. It had her first thought and care. With Mary's heart was Martha's hand. Firm and kind, she was ever thoughtful for the welfare and comfort of her household. Indeed her daily life was an exposition of the words of the Old Testament – "She worketh willingly with her hands. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her; she will do him good and not evil all the days of her life."

The quiet, restrained force of her character was most noticeable. Her strength lay in quietness and confidence. Her words were guarded; no one ever heard from her lips an unkind word respecting others. This was observed not only by those who shared her home life, but was apparent to visitors. From time to time bishops, special preachers, and others were our guests, and I may be forgiven for quoting the words of a recent visitor, the editor of a well-known Church paper, who wrote – "She had an irresistible charm of manner: her winsome smile, her quickness to understand, and her abounding sympathy endeared her to all with whom she came in contact." A prominent feature of her daily life was her utter unselfishness – the apparent exile of self from every thought and act. None more considerate of others, none more thoughtful of their interests and comfort. Hers was the loving service which sought its happiness in the good of others.

Thy resting place was Home – this the sweet sphere
Of all thy gentle rule and tender love;
Thy Christ-like graces shed their sunshine here,
Till merged too soon in Heaven's glad light above.

What she was to the Church, how greatly it was indebted to her, none, not even I myself, can say. In the days of Church extension and school building she laboured constantly with hand and pen in preparation for bazaars and parochial sales. In St. Simon's parish, where she is still kindly remembered, she founded and carried on for several years the Mothers' Meeting and the Young Women's Bible Class, both fruitful in results. For nearly twenty-five years in Heeley it was her joy to do all she could for the Church and its varied organizations. She established and superintended the large Mothers' Meeting, ever taking a personal interest, amounting almost to affection, for its members, and visiting them in sickness and trouble. From time to time she addressed them at the meeting. In her Bible I find notes of an address prepared before Christmas, some of which are appended. For several years she conducted the Young Women's Bible Class and superintended the Church Room Girls' Sunday School. For nearly twenty-five years she was the treasurer of the Parish Magazine, which meant no small labour, and for the same period, as Secretary for the Bible Reading Union, she sent out each year 200 cards of membership. She was president of our Parochial Mothers' Union and Girls' Friendly Society. Another work which gave her intense pleasure for many years and up to her death, was the visitorship of the Heeley district of the Aged Female Society, involving about thirty visits every two months.

Often on the Sunday afternoon, after coming in from the Sunday School, she has gone with her Bible to read and pray with some poor, lone, sick widow. Again and again she visited sick and troubled ones, and knelt with them in prayer. Not many months ago, when her own strength was failing, she was passing a door in one of our streets, when she was asked to go in and see a poor woman who was dying. Her kind heart could not refuse. She went in, offered words of comfort and prayer, and, I fear, suffered for it afterwards, as she did in other like cases. But the joy of sacrifice was hers.

It is an unspeakable comfort to hear repeated again and again the testimony, "She was so kind to everyone". An old, much respected friend, who served eleven years as lay reader in the parish, writes of our loss as "one which will be keenly felt by the Church which she served so long and so faithfully". Another, now at college, writes: "Heeley will be united in grieving with you, for it has lost one who has spent many years of her life in tending its sick folk, sympathizing with those in trouble, cheering the despondent, and guiding the steps of the young. As one who was privileged to spend nearly five years amongst the same people, I can truly say that Mrs. Odom was beloved by all. Few days passed without some testimony being given to the beauty of her character. In the home, at the various meetings, in the parish, one felt the Christ-likeness of her life."

She was very methodical and accurate in correspondence and accounts, written in her neat handwriting. On the Thursday previous to her death, when in bed, but before the serious nature of her illness was apparent, she, assisted by her niece, completed a statement required by the Aged Female Society, made up the accounts of the Ladies' Home Mission Union, and dictated a letter. This was her last work. Shortly afterwards God's finger touched her, beckoning her to higher service.

What took place during the few closing days of her earthly pilgrimage is almost too sacred for words. It reminded one of the call of Christiana, concerning whom Bunyan wrote: "A post came from the Celestial City to one Christiana, the wife of Christian the Pilgrim. She was presented with a letter. The contents were, 'Hail, good woman! I bring thee tidings that the Master calleth for thee, and expecteth that thou shouldest stand in His presence, in robes of immortality, within these ten days'." Ten days! Even so was it with our dear one.

On the morning of Sunday, February 23rd, she attended Church. It was our Special Offering Sunday, and with much pleasure she was able to put on the offertory plate £6. 7s. 0d., which had been sent to her by a few private friends, and £1. 13s. 0d. given by members of the Mothers' Meeting. The next day, Monday, feeling chilly, she remained in bed, but, although the doctor was sent for, no serious consequences were apprehended until Thursday afternoon, when a clot of blood went from the heart to the brain. Beyond the difficulty of breathing, there was, happily, little or no pain. Periods of sleep were succeeded by bright intervals of consciousness. As usual, she thought of others before self. "Nurse," said she one morning, "I am thirsty, but go and get your breakfast, and then bring me some tea," adding to her sister, "Look after nurse." On the Sunday, our last on earth together, we prayed, and I repeated to her some of her favourite hymns. Reminding her of our Lord's words, "I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am there ye may be also," she said, "But Jesus is with us here!" Shortly after I quoted words from Psalm xxiii, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life," emotion compelled silence, when she finished the verse for me, saying, "and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."

On the Monday she was clearly much weaker. She was a lover of flowers. Shown some by our daughter, she asked what they were, and was told they were tulips. "Tulips," she said, "beautiful – God's flowers." She gave me a message to the Mothers' Meeting, which she had superintended only a fortnight before – "Give my love to them," she said, "and tell them to be good." After Monday she gradually sank – literally fell asleep, and in the early hours of Wednesday she crossed the Jordan by morning light. Her end was "peace, perfect peace." She could truly say, "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation."

On the following Saturday, amid bright sunshine, the earthly tabernacle was laid to rest near the walk down which for nearly twenty-five happy years of loving service she had walked from the pleasant home to the church she so much loved. There it reposes in sure and certain hope until the Day of Resurrection.

For a space the tired body
Lies with feet towards the dawn;
Till there breaks the last and brightest
Easter Morn.

Farewell, dear one! Faithful companion and guide – for thirty-five years light of my home, and partner in my labours, joys, and sorrows! Would that a double portion of the Christ-like, loving, patient spirit might rest upon me! Farewell, but not for ever! We shall meet again in the Father's House, and once more unite in worship and service. Thou restest from thy labours, and for a while I am left. But the light of thy life shall illumine my pilgrim path until travelling days are done – "UNTIL THE DAY BREAK, AND THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

A most beautiful Runic Cross of silver-grey Cornish granite, nine feet high, stands in Heeley Churchyard at the head of the resting-place. On the front, after an ancient pattern, is fine interlaced work, the crossing and re-crossing of which indicate the mystery of life.  It bears the following inscription:

"Until the day break."
"IN LOVING MEMORY OF MARY, THE DEVOTED WIFE OF
THE REV. WILLIAM ODOM, VICAR OF THIS PARISH.
BORN 12 AUGUST, 1849. DIED 5 MARCH, 1913."
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

More than three hundred letters, most touching and sympathetic, were received, and are gratefully treasured. Two of these, one from Dr. Lang, Archbishop of York, the other from Dr. Handley Moule, Bishop of Durham, are given by kind permission of the writers:

"Bishopthorpe, York. 10 March, 1913.
My dear Mr. Odom,
Let me send you a word of deepest and most heartfelt sympathy with you in your great sorrow – the greatest any man can be called to bear. I have a vivid recollection of sitting with you and Mrs. Odom in your vicarage, on the occasion of my visit to your parish, and of my instinctive recognition of the spiritual fellowship which bound you together. Thank God we can believe that that spiritual fellowship is unbroken by death, even though the outward, visible expressions of it are removed; that indeed it is uplifted into the higher, eternal world; that there it will be perfected. But I know that to the human heart the loss of what is visible in such a companionship would be hard to bear – very hard. And I pray that God in His love and mercy may give you His Strong Spirit to comfort and sustain you.
Yours in sincerest sympathy,
COSMO EBOR."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"As from Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland. 29 April, 1913.
Mr dear Mr. Odom,
I seize an interval in a day of devotion spent with the South Shields clergy, to thank you for so kindly sending me your 'Wreath of Love.' I have read it – every word – with a much-moved heart. I sometimes look on my dear wife, who for almost thirty-two years has been the joy and strength of my life, and think (scarcely daring to think much) what it would be if she were called from me.* Your wonderful record, and your firm faith and God-given 'assent', go to my soul for its highest good. May the secret presence of your faithful Redeemer be very sensibly with you, to fill the tremendous wound, as a crystal lake can fill the rent made by a volcano. He is the one anodyne, really. I have thought much lately on that verse of the Word: 'Ye are come unto the spirits of the just made perfect.' That must mean a very wonderful proximity. And oh, does not the coming of the King of Life draw nigh. 'Hope is Faith with her feet on the rock and her face to the morning.'
I am yours in Him and His hope, H. DUNELM."

[ * Footnote – Mrs. Moule was suddenly called Home little more than two years after these words were written. ]

The dear one left behind her several short "Notes" of addresses given to the Heeley Mothers' Meeting, which she started, and to which she was devotedly attached. Of these, two are appended:

I. WORDS FOR A NEW YEAR
"What this year may bring to each of us we know not. It may be health, comfort, and prosperity, or it may be far otherwise. Clouds may gather, storms may arise, trouble may come, and even life itself may be in peril. But through all the changes and chances of this mortal life, how may we be secure and in peace? How may we go on happily in the quiet confidence that all is well? How may we be kept safe from danger, safe in life, safe in death, safe for evermore? Take the bright Lamp of God's Word to shine upon your path! It is like the Star of Bethlehem; it will point the way to the Saviour, and show you how to live a holy, happy, and useful life. Its promises will never deceive nor disappoint you. From the beginning to the end of the year it will throw a heavenly light in the darkest hour. It will comfort and cheer you whatever may happen. We do indeed need Christ to go before us, as the pillar of cloud and fire guided the Israelites; to go behind us, to defend us against all spiritual foes; to be above us, to over-rule all for our good; to be beneath us with everlasting arms; to be within us to cheer, comfort, and strengthen.
A New Year's Prayer, 'Teach me to do Thy Will'."

II. CHRIST AND CHILDREN. – Mark x, 13-16.
"(1) Think of the mothers at that meeting. They must have known and loved Christ themselves, or they would not have troubled to bring their children to Him. Blessed is the child whose mother loves Christ!
(2) These mothers met with difficulties and discouragements in coming. There was so much to do at home; the husbands may have thought it unnecessary; the neighbours may have laughed; the day may have been hot, and the way long and dusty, and the children heavy to carry, but they came. They persevered, even when the disciples would have driven them away.
(3) They got what they desired – Christ's welcome, and a blessing for their children. He was the centre of that meeting. The mothers gathered round Him. What a loving welcome! He took the children up, &c. Long before, the Prophet Isaiah had foretold that Christ would gather the lambs in His arms and carry them in His bosom. The mothers may have known these sweet words, and been encouraged to come to Jesus. If we, dear mothers, search the Scriptures we, too, shall find words encouraging us to come to the Saviour.
(4) It was only ten days before our Lord's death on the Cross, yet, although His sufferings were so near, He had time and thought, and tender love, and gentle words for these mothers and their little ones. Jesus is still the mothers' Friend, the children's Friend – 'The same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.' He loves to have us come, and to gather round His feet."


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Full Contents

I

Sheffield in the 'Sixties
The author's reminiscences of 'Old Sheffield' and its inhabitants.

II

The Church in Sheffield, 1866-1916
Brief history of the church in Sheffield and its development, timetable of subjects and tutors from an Educational Institute Class List of 1866, clergy names, benefactors, details of churches/parishes, etc — this chapter has been split into two pages, the link taking you to the first of these.

III

Memories of St. Simon's, 1877-1888
Details of this parish in one of the most densely-populated areas of Sheffield, anecdotes, names, etc.

IV

Christ Church, Heeley, 1888-1916
History, descriptions and anecdotes of Heeley before it became developed, names of residents, and a comprehensive account of the author's incumbency, including details of the church extensions, building of the Sunday Schools, fundraising, collections and expenditure, a little about Nonconformists, names of curates/scripture readers/deaconesses/churchwardens etc, and the author's eventual retirement — this chapter has been split into two pages, the link taking you to the first of these.

V

Heeley and the War
Names of congregation members fallen in the Great War, including one VC (Sgt-Maj J C Raynes, Royal Artillery, with citation given), together with extracts from letters written by servicemen giving accounts of conditions at the front (France, Belgium, Egypt), their experiences in battle, and thoughts of home; also an account from a survivor of the sinking of the hospital ship 'Anglia' in the Channel.

VI

Recollections – Men and Things
Many names and anecdotes of clergy, laymen and others known and befriended during the author's ministry — this chapter has been split into two pages, the link taking you to the first of these.

VII

Books and Travel
Author's favourite reading, details and a bibliography of other published work, and travel.

VIII

THIS PAGE: In Memoriam – Mary Odom.

IX

"God and Cæsar." A Sermon preached before the Mayor and Corporation.
Text of a sermon preached at Sheffield Parish Church in 1887.

X

"Public Worship – its Methods." A Paper read at the Islington Clerical Meeting, London, 1903.
Text includes the author's observations on the principles established at the time of the Reformation, the dangers of a return to 'mediaevalism', and public worship as laid out in the Book of Common Prayer.

Names of Subscribers
(the names of over 250 subscribers listed alphabetically by surname, of interest to those who may be "ancestor hunting" (in many cases only initials are given, not christian names).
Please note these are only the names of pre-publication subscribers as printed in the book, but many more individuals are mentioned in the text whose names have not been indexed. Throughout this transcript most names have been highlighted in bold at least once (not necessarily if they are repeated). If searching for specific surnames, place names or any other information through the various chapters, make use of the Find or Search facility in your browser while on each page.

Illustrations from the book — click thumbnails for enlargement in a new window
(for chapters and contents, see list above)

Interior of Sheffield Cathedral - click for enlargement

Interior of Sheffield Cathedral Church
(St Peter & St Paul)

Leonard Hedley Burrows, Bishop of Sheffield - click for enlargement

The Bishop of Sheffield, Leonard Hedley Burrows, D.D.,
to whom the book is dedicated

St Simon's Church, Sheffield - click for enlargement

St. Simon's Church, Sheffield (covered in Chapter III)

Exterior of Christ Church, Heeley - click for enlargement

Christ Church, Heeley: exterior
(the author's time at Heeley is covered in Chapter IV)

Interior of Heeley Church - click for enlargement

Heeley Church: Interior

Floor plan of Heeley Church - click for enlargement

Floor plan of Heeley Church,
dating the various extensions

Whit-Monday at Heeley - click for enlargement

Whit-Monday at Heeley
(no date given, but possibly ca. 1916/1917)

Heeley Vicarage - click for enlargement

Heeley Vicarage
The individuals are not named, but could well be Rev and Mrs Odom

Rev. Canon William Odom - click for enlargement

The author,
Rev. Canon William Odom

Memorial Cross, Heeley Churchyard - click for enlargement

Memorial Cross for Mary Odom,
Heeley Churchyard
(see Chapter VIII on this page)

Memorial Window, Heeley Church - click for enlargement

Memorial and Commemoration Window, Heeley Church

Dedication - click for enlargement

This copy of the book includes a handwritten dedication
from the author to the Bishop of Sheffield, 1917



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