Kathleen Florence Read 1931-2022


Kathleen was involved with Mildmay since the late 1980s. Kathleen kept the papers of the Friends of Mildmay, the Mildmay Trust, the Mildmay Council and Islington community contact for very many years.


The homily that was given by Revd Caroline Shuttleworth at Kathleen's funeral service at St Mary Islington on 23 May 2022


"Hollywood star Bette Davis declared, ‘Old age ain’t no place for sissies.’ Growing old is not for wimps! It’s a sentiment that has been expressed by many others and one that Kathleen Read chuckled over in one of many chats about life, usually whilst drinking tea and counting money! Kathleen lived a long life. 91 years in, Kathleen had no illusions about getting older and yet she also seemed to glory in her longevity. ‘Of course, I have cancer you know’ was the first thing Kathleen ever said to me, 6 years ago, ‘but I don’t worry about it, I just get on with life.’ Why is it so often at a funeral that we discover sides to a loved one that we have never known before?


Kathleen was one of that precious band of sisters and brothers at St Mary’s who hold more years and more history than most. To mark the 75 years since VE day, Kathleen memorably and movingly shared her own experiences for an anniversary film we made whilst in the midst of lockdown. A long life and one full of stories and memories.


If I have one standout memory of Kathleen, which I discover is shared by others, it is hearing a disembodied voice over the ‘Zoom Waves’, as we gathered week by week for Sunday morning worship online, ‘It’s Kathleen here.’ A global pandemic challenged us to find new ways to connect. But every Sunday Kathleen learned how to join the church online via her telephone, and made her presence known. In the eager chat, as we came together each Sunday after a week of lockdown social isolation, her soft quiet voice somehow cut through and caught attention, prompting fresh greetings and exchanges. For Kathleen, neither a pandemic nor technology nor a natural quiet diffidence was going to stop her. It’s Kathleen here. It seemed to have a profound impact and theological meaning. I believe it was Kathleen’s great ministry to all of us to remind us that even in anxiety and adversity, physical separation and Zoom invisibility, we could connect in unexpected ways and claim recognition, claim significance and claim belonging to the Body of Christ.


We might be forgiven for assuming that the dynamic drama of Holy Scripture doesn’t have much to say to the grey beards and silver foxes around us but we would be wrong of course. Every word about the bible is about ageing because it is about being human life, and to be human and alive is to age. The thing about long life is that many of those memories and stories may be lost to us, but they are not lost to God. Kathleen reminds us that there is more to any of us than we might imagine, with depths of unfathomable riches. Those marvellous words of hope from Isaiah, written when God's people were at their most weary and laid waste, they glitter and gleam with prophetic power, that faith begins with memory. ‘Have you not known. have you not heard?’ Isaiah shows us what we may sometimes forget yet is known from the beginning of time.


All things that seem to have power over us, age, weariness, sickness, death, all that is death-dealing is brought to nought. The unsearchable tireless creator of the ends of the cosmos who knows them by their very name, who searches for us, will renew the strength of those who wait for the lord, so that they will mount up with wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, walk, and not grow faint. Sometimes perhaps unfathomable glory is too much, and we hurry home to a life more ordinary and workaday and yet it is there too that Jesus the bread of life, comes to find us, around the homely table of friendship and fellowship. This is food that is uniquely life-giving and can nourish us like nothing on earth, so ordinary yet so full of deep power and mystery, that will draw us into the very life of God. Eat me, says Jesus take me in. The Bread of Life is a symbol of great intimacy, it is nothing less than friendship with God that is on offer. He will abide with us, will dwell in us. It is the language of hospitality, of setting up home with God and inviting Jesus into your home. The future of God's people is to eat bread at the messianic wedding banquet of the Kingdom of Heaven.


Kathleen lived close to the heartbeat of God. She knew God and God knew her. Trust me says Jesus, your future is secure with me. Not even death will be able to take you from me. The God who loves us beyond measure, calls us home. And home is one of our deepest longings, that place where we can be ourselves, accepted, secure and safe, where we are recognised, and we are loved for who we are, the place where we know that we belong. Every expression of love on earth is a foretaste, a glimpse, of the heavenly home. Here

today we show our love for our dear friend Kathleen by gathering here and remembering her, keeping company and being with her in this last farewell. The God who loves us all is calling Kathleen to her eternal home. We bless her and give thanks to God for her life with us."



 

Read more about Kathleen in our Staff Stories pages.


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