We caught up with Canon Roger Davis at his home in Wells, Somerset. Roger, now 83, was Rector of St Peter’s Church in Berkhamsted for 14 years from 1981 – 1995, when he retired.
Here he shares some of his early memories of our founder Pam Macpherson’s inspiration and formidable character and of the support and generosity of the Church community...
“During my tenure at St Peter’s, church membership was really thriving. We had 1,000 people on the church roll and 300-400 regularly attending Sunday services. The congregation was instrumental in supporting Pam Macpherson’s hospice project.
Pam and her husband John were dedicated church-goers and John was a lay reader at St Peters, so they were well known in the town.
Pam formulated her original idea with the church community, based around prayer, with the love inspired by Christian faith as her total motivation.
She had visited St Christopher’s Hospice (the very first hospice founded by Cicely Saunders) in London, and there she gained in-depth knowledge on setting up and running a hospice.
I was able to encourage the support of the parishes of Northchurch, Sunnyside, Tring and Potten End - the initial catchment area for hospice respite care, and the Parochial Church Council (PCC) was fully supportive too.
At the same time, All Saints Church in Shrublands Road was a shared building for the Methodist and Anglican churches, All Saints being the daughter church to St Peters, so I was able to draw on those congregations for support too.
Geoffrey Tristram (now a monk in the US) and Matthew Baines (who died in 2018), were my curates at St Peters and I made them Priests-in-Charge at All Saints.
They lived next door in the Chaplains House - which was almost opposite the Hospice (after the house was purchased from the nuns). They were therefore Chaplains to the Hospice during that time.
Pam wanted the Hospice to be open and inclusive, with no barriers, at a human level for all. No Government support was available so fundraising was entirely community-centred, and parishioners gave generously.
Pam was totally absorbed in getting the project off the ground, winning people’s confidence and drawing into her loyal team anyone she could find who had professional expertise.
There were a few difficulties and conflicts along the way because Pam was a formidable spirit, single-minded and occasionally prone to ruffling feathers – but at the end of the day, look what she and her fellow ‘Originals’ achieved!
My daughter Elizabeth helped in the Hospice at weekends when she was a teenager. It’s a source of great pride to me that she eventually qualified as a GP, specialising in the care of the terminally ill and is now a doctor two days a week at the Prospect Hospice in Wroughton, near Swindon.”
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