Haverhill local preacher retires after a diamond length of service

Thelma Mills receiving her 60 years Long Service Certificate as a local preacher at the Haverhill Methodist Church from Rev Peter Goodhall.
Thelma Mills receiving her 60 years Long Service Certificate as a local preacher at the Haverhill Methodist Church from Rev Peter Goodhall.

After 60 years as a local preacher at Haverhill Methodist Church, Thelma Mills has taken her final service and retired from the role.

Thelma gave her final sermon at the Camps Road church on Sunday evening, bringing the curtain down on a job that began for her in the same year that John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met and Britain tested an H bomb for the first time.

The Haverhill resident, who lives in Mount Road, was presented with a 60 years long service certificate as a local preacher (also known as lay preaching in some churches) by the church’s minister, Reverend Peter Goodhall, in recognition of her achievement.

Reflecting on her longevity in the job, Thelma, 84, said: “The number of years didn’t really bother me.

“I just felt that it was something that God was saying ‘carry on’, so I did.

“I just felt it was the right thing to do. It was a privilege that I had the opportunity to do it.”

Thelma explained how, as a young woman, she first got involved in local preaching.

“There was a lady who was already a local preacher, way back. I think there were three of us at the time who used to go with her when she took services.

“At that time we had about six village chapels connected with the Haverhill church so we used to go around the village churches with her.

“It was through that that I started and I just carried on from there really.”

Although not ordained, individuals can become local preachers once they have studied and provided written work that is then assessed to make sure their theology is correct.

Aside from Haverhill Methodist Church, Thelma has preached at a number of other churches in the local area, including at Stambourne, Castle Camps and Steeple Bumpstead and estimates that the number of services she has taken will be ‘in the hundreds.’

Although she has retired as a local preacher, Thelma will continue to be a member of the congregation at the church.

She added: “I shall miss it (the preaching) I know, but it’s certainly time to finish.”