Obituary: Elspeth Webster DCS, deaconess, final surviving hyperlink to the Church of Scotland’s Church Sisters



Elspeth Webster DCS, deaconess. Born: 16 November 1915 in Burntisland. Died: 1 April 2019 in Windygates, Fife, aged 103

As a bit of lady she witnessed the lights of the ships within the Forth signaling the tip of the Nice Warfare. As a nonagenarian she mastered the web: such was the span of her indefatigably well-lived life.

And just about all of it was spent caring for others. For Elspeth Webster, hers was a lifetime of service to the church and her group, wherever that may be.

Although her roots had been in Burntisland, she started her working life in Aberdeen and served in quite a few components of the nation, each prosperous and poverty-ridden, as deaconess and the final surviving hyperlink to the Church of Scotland’s Church Sisters.

Born in 1915, the elder daughter of dockyard coal trimmer George Webster and his spouse Maggie, she was educated at Burntisland Major and Dunfermline Excessive however left college at 17 on the loss of life of her mom. Having deliberate to coach as a trainer she discovered herself caring for her youthful brother Jim and sister Margaret.

Already concerned with the native church, youth and drama teams, at 21 she wrote to an orphanage at Bridge of Weir hoping to work with youngsters. Nonetheless her minister visited her father and advised she practice as a Church Sister, a task now often called a deaconess, which concerned serving to with parish work underneath the Girls’s Dwelling Mission committee.

She handed the interview and began her coaching at St Colm’s School, Edinburgh in 1938, a time she described as the most effective years of her life. Appointed to the parish of John Knox Church in Aberdeen in 1940, she grew to become a Church Sister in March the next yr after finishing six months’ probation.

On the time tuberculosis was prevalent and she or he labored with the town’s poor, working the equal of at this time’s meals banks and distributing produce supplied by Church Guilds. The Second World Warfare was additionally raging and, with the church corridor was a relaxation centre, she helped the group shelter there from bombing raids, organising tea and beds for locals.

In 1944 she was posted to Edinburgh’s St George’s the place she stayed for six years. Her position once more concerned working with impoverished households, lots of them in cramped housing. She additionally helped with organisations for kids, established a boys’ membership and took women to summer season camp at Leven.

Deaconesses then lived in digs and she or he recalled going to a ball – attended by the newly-engaged and elegantly-attired Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip – sporting a gown borrowed from her landlady.

Miss Webster, who was the final president of the Church Sisters’ Affiliation, was concerned within the transition of the group from church sisters to amalgamation with deaconesses. When she handed over the badge of workplace to the primary president of the Diaconate Council, her minister on the time, Dr Charles Taylor, commented that the change of title would make no distinction to her and her assorted and environment friendly companies.

“She will get by a tremendous quantity of labor carried out in a quiet gracious method and animated by love for all whom she could possibly assist. She has drawn to herself the love of all who’ve come to know her and who’re grateful for her unselfish service. We give her gladly the brand new identify, however she continues to be the identical Miss Elspeth Webster.”

St George’s keenly felt their loss when she moved on firstly to Edinburgh’s Gilmerton after which to Mains of Fintry, Dundee. After a interval of additional coaching in Birmingham, she returned to Scotland in 1965, to Burnhead Church in Uddingston after which to the Kirk of the Holy Rood, Grangemouth the place she concentrated extra on coaching elders and Sunday Faculty academics.

Right now she adopted a extra progressive outlook, experimenting with strategies of worship and totally different music, striving to make the message extra related in altering instances. Right here she began a playgroup and Women’ Brigade firm and took her work into the varsity classroom.

Her final 4 years earlier than retirement in 1975 had been spent at Rosyth the place she was concerned in visiting houses and faculties and within the Sunday Faculty, Brownies and Guides.

However it had not been all work – she loved journeys to Oberammergau, albeit on a really quick shoestring, a examine tour to the Holy Land and a theology convention in Sweden.

She took up golf, learn extensively, holidayed in Florida along with her sister, did a day by day crossword and refused to consider herself as outdated, sustaining a eager curiosity in world affairs and mastering new expertise. At 93 she acquired a laptop computer laptop and was thrilled to have the ability to watch the Normal Meeting of the Church of Scotland, dwell from the consolation her own residence.

A deaconess to the tip, simply two days earlier than she died she quoted from Timothy four:1-Eight saying she had “fought the nice struggle, I’ve completed the race, I’ve saved the religion”.

She is survived by her nieces Ann and Eileen.

ALISON GRAY

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