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The Revd Elsie Howell (nee Martin): 1941-2022

The 13th woman to be ordained in the Baptist ministry, Elsie was truly a servant of the Lord in every aspect of her long and faithful ministry 

Elsie HowellThe Revd Elsie Howell (nee Martin) passed away on 5 January 2022 - close to her 81st birthday. She was born in Plymouth on 29 January 1941, the daughter of Geoffrey and Serita Martin, just before the commencement of the Plymouth blitz, during which the family home was bombed resulting in Elsie being placed with a relative for seven months before returning home.

She attended Montpelier junior school before moving on to Stoke Demerel High School in Plymouth, and it was whilst she was there, and with the encouragement of her RE teacher, that Elsie became interested in the work of Crusaders at St Bartholomew’s Church and later, following her confirmation, at St Andrews where she got involved in youth work. Upon leaving school she joined Barclays Bank where she remained for six years, and it was during this period of development of her faith that she expressed the desire to be baptised by total immersion – apparently not altogether welcomed by the vicar of St Andrews!

Elsie moved from the Church of England in 1961 to join Ford Baptist Church in Plymouth where she became a youth worker, lay preacher and Life Boys leader (not all at the same time!) - and it was whilst there that she felt the call to ministry - entering the Northern Baptist College in 1965. She was ordained on 19 July 1969 – the 13th woman to be ordained in the Baptist ministry – and her first calling was to Wednesbury, Sandwell in the West Midlands where she exercised a notable ministry, making many long standing friends. In 1976 she moved to Castle Hill, Warwick, where she remained until 1982 – before moving to Droitwich Spa in Worcestershire where she ministered until 1992, as well as serving as Worcestershire Association secretary between 1985 and 1990.

It was around this time that Elsie led a number of trips to the Holy Land and, in 1988, she met with Madeline Howell, one of the pilgrims, who sadly passed away only three weeks after returning home. Her husband, David, was an Anglican minister at the Crowhurst retreat which Elsie also visited a number of times. Perhaps not surprisingly, romance ‘blossomed’ and David and Elsie were married in a joyous wedding service at Droitwich on 6h January 1990. Then, in 1992, Elsie responded to a call from Wellington, where she ministered until her so-called ‘retirement’ in 2001, and where David (though ‘retired’) served as Diocesan Advisor on Health and Healing to the Bishop of Bath and Wells as well as assisting in ministering at St John’s, Wellington.

In retirement, Elsie served as moderator at a number of churches and, for a brief period, as Secretary of the West of England Association. Both Elsie and David were also actively involved with the University of the Third Age – Elsie imparting practical knowledge in computing, and David in church architecture.

Some time after David’s death in November 2017, Elsie moved from Wellington to Exeter in order to be closer to the Cathedral where she served for several years as a member of the volunteer group of clergy providing a welcome and pastoral support to visitors to the cathedral – a ministry which she regarded as a very great privilege, and where she preached on the occasion when she celebrated the 50th anniversary of her ordination. It is therefore very fitting that her funeral service is to take place at the Cathedral on 2 February 2022.

Elsie is survived by her slightly younger brother, Harry, and sister-in-law Shirley who, along with dear friends from Wellington and South Street Exeter, provided Elsie with much support during her final years spent at Greenslade Nursing Home in Exeter.

Elsie was truly a servant of the Lord in every aspect of her long and faithful ministry which gave her tremendous joy, and she was ever mindful and thankful for the support, prayerful and practical, of so many folk over the years. Truly, it can be said of her: “well done, thou good and faithful servant”.


Philip Cooke 

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