THE REVD. PATTIE VIGERS
21ST MARCH 1931 – 26TH NOVEMBER 2015
Pattie was born in Devon on 21st March 1931, the second of four children, and lived her earliest years in a part of Devon the beauty of which she captured in her paintings and where she would stay every year, including this year. The family moved to Bedford in about 1940, where Pattie attended the High School and developed her great talent for art, then going on to the Slade School of Art. She excelled at swimming, and represented London University in that sport. She then taught art, first at the Alice Otley School in Worcester and then Queen Margaret’s near York, and many of her pupils remained friends for life.
On 10th September 1957 she married Simon Vigers, whom she had first met in Devon, in the church where her parents had been married. Shortly after the birth of their first baby, Piers, Simon said to one of her friends, “I am the happiest man in the world; I have a most wonderful wife and a baby.” They had three more children, Guy, Anna and Neil; Piers and Anna were to care for others as an osteopath and a nurse, Neil was ordained, like his mother later, and Guy devoted his working life to the study of the human cell. Tragically Simon died in 1972.
Pattie initially qualified and worked as a Southwark Pastoral Auxiliary, but women priests came on the scene in time for her to be ordained, a role she was destined for. In her quiet way she trained to become ordained, and her parents knew nothing of it until she told them, to their great admiration and delight, of her first qualification on that road. Pattie was later described by a friend as “the best argument I know for women priests.” Pattie was ordained deacon in 1999, and priest in 2000.
In Buckland Pattie was, in her quiet way, at the centre of church and community. In addition to all the normal duties of a priest she led Housegroups in Buckland and Betchworth for many years. The detailed research she carried out on the different subjects, from the History of Christianity to Christians with Attitude, brought a greater understanding of faith to all in the group. She used to visit old people’s homes in the area and read the Bible to them. Before ordination she ran the Sunday School, which is how many of us first came into contact with her, and in latter years she held evening prayer services in church on Tuesdays.
Pattie always delivered excellent sermons with her wise words and wrote lovely pieces for the Parish Magazine. She could, however, be forthright on occasion. She wrote controversial pieces in the Magazine on current issues making her views very clear.
Among her many voluntary activities, Pattie was a long and loyal committee member of the Buckland One World Group and a strong supporter of its core charity, Money for Madagascar. Her contributions were always wise and helpful, with many good ideas for speakers. She also organised, for many years, the Royal British Legion and Christian Aid collections in the village.
For many Reading Room events (One World Group talks, Winter and Lent Lunches, Harvest Suppers, etc.), she took it upon herself to be in charge of refreshments, and would invariably arrive very early to ensure all the crockery was laid out with urn and kettles at the ready. Although in her eighties, she would sometimes take the dirty cups and saucers home, wash them there and return them the next morning. She was always the last to leave, insisting everyone else go home leaving her to lock up. That was Pattie, so self-reliant and not wishing to impose herself on anyone.
We will miss her notes and letters written in her beautiful handwriting and her beautifully drawn cartoons when we have been to meetings together. We will miss her greatly, such a gentle soul who achieved so much without a fanfare of trumpets. Pattie’s generosity, modesty and willingness to help in numerous ways will be lasting memories for all of us. Her contribution to village life cannot be exaggerated.
May she rest in peace and rise in glory
Personal memories and reflections
Carol Coslett writes: “Pattie left me a folder entitled ‘So the Rector will know what gaps need to be filled’. She wrote in it: ‘Perhaps in years to come I shall be remembered as “you know…. that candle woman!” I have lots of instructions about candles! She prepared St Mary’s for the next service whether she was taking it or not: she respected the liturgy and loved the sacrament.”
Helen Burnett writes: “Over ten years ago Pattie decided to start a quiet but determined one-woman campaign to encourage me to explore my vocation. Her belief in me created a ripple where there was a mere droplet or inkling in my own heart. Implicit in all she ever said to me was a fundamental understanding of what was entailed in bringing up children and the importance of family, and so she never attempted to intrude on my existing work but wanted me to be ready to open the door into a new vocation when the time was right. I am so lucky to have experienced her love and encouragement and I am so sad that she will be observing my ordination from the heavens and not from a pew in the cathedral!”
Pattie’s calligraphy was always a delight to see and to read. She made up the Marriage Register for all weddings, which was no small task, but meant they look like state records fresh from the Garter King of Arms. She was always able to use her art talent, whether it be drawings in the order of service or her beautiful writing to be found on numerous posters (and in the headings and footers of this magazine).
Her sense of humour was delightful: her generosity put the Good Samaritan in the shade!
She did so much behind the scenes that many people were unaware of. She worked so hard for Buckland church and its community. She always seemed to be cooking, providing lifts, washing tea towels as well as using her remarkable pastoral skills for the benefit of the community.
Wendy Lane writes: “I got to know Pattie quite well when she joined the Brigitte Trust [see the December 2015 Buckland Parish Magazine, p. 27] many years ago and I was her Area Organiser. [Initially] I thought her a bit ‘holier than thou’. I soon found out how wrong I was. Her serene exterior hid a feisty personality with quite a wicked sense of humour. She gave love and reassurance to many people during her time at B.T.”
The Revd. Kate Capper writes: “When I came to Betchworth and Buckland one of the highlights for me was to work alongside Pattie. Pattie was the gentlest and most humble priest I have ever met and I appreciated and benefitted from her wisdom and generosity. She was self-effacing yet able to give advice when needed and always eager to serve others quietly. I shall miss her!”
Pattie’s departure from earthly life will leave a large gap in so many lives. She was a wonderful and wise person in what she did, and who she was. She worked hard and uncomplainingly in the parish and at the church. She was always someone who would help you if you had lost your way. Many people poured their hearts out to her over the years. She would quietly listen, advise and then enable you to get your life back on track.
Pattie will, we are sure, be remembered for being gracious, quiet and unassuming, always ready with hands outstretched, to say a warm thank you – a gesture that we all appreciated. We understood humility through Pattie – what she said, and perhaps more importantly, what she did not say.
Pattie was “an almost perfect human being” in the words of one parishioner. “She was a saint, shining and unassuming”. (The Dorking Advertiser (10th December, page 25) has already ‘canonised’ Pattie. She would have been amused at this.)
The Funeral service for Pattie was held on the 18th December in St Michael’s Betchworth with The Rt. Revd Jonathan Clark presiding. The church was full with family, friends, members from church congregations, and many from the local community. The service took the form of a Eucharist, and included music that was particularly chosen for the occasion, Including “Be thou my Vision” by Bob Chilcott, sung by the combined parish choirs and the anthem “And I saw a New Heaven” by Edgar Bainton sung by four Lay Clerk’s from Guildford Cathedral. A very moving and personal address was given by her son Revd Neil Vigers.
On the 17th December a candlelight vigil had been held in Buckland church using much of the liturgy that Pattie so often used in evening services. Her four children and grandchildren all were involved in the service paying tribute to someone so much loved.
Pattie was buried in St Mary’s churchyard in the grave of her husband Simon Vigers, who died on 8th January 1972.
Donations in honour of Pattie are to go towards the work of St Christopher’s Hospice, c/o Sherlock Funeral Services, Trellis House, 190, South street, Dorking, Surrey, RH4 2 ES.