Sister Pat Holland has ministered at St Michael and All Angels in Bishop’s Cleeve for the past 22 years. She’s been a faithful member of the Church Army for 53 years. We give thanks for her ministry and look back on some of the moments in her life.
“Pat started her Church Army ministry, after commissioning, in 1962, in a parish in Cambridge, living in a caravan in the vicarage garden, her first challenge being to start a youth club. Due to an emergency in the family, she had to then move back to Blackburn.
The Ministry of Defence approached the Church Army to request Susters to become Chaplains’ Assistants and in 1970 Pat was seconded to the RAF.
This posting came complete with an RAF uniform and Pat moved around the country, living in Brize Norton, Lyneham and Marham as well as spending time in Cyprus.
Pat says that she remembers it as an amazing and challenging ministry, supporting those serving in the forces and their families.
“I was blessed by wonderful chaplains of all types of churchmanship and denominations.”
At RAF Marham, Pat met Bill, an Air Traffic Controller, RAF Officer, and most importantly, the man who was to become her husband. Both of them were involved in the care of a family of a man dying of cancer.
Bill was involved in hospital visiting and he and Pat shared updates on this particular family. The time spent in this ministry brought them together and they married in October 1978, in the Station Church.
In 1981 they moved to RAF Machrihanish, on the tip of Argyll and at the same time Pat was made redundant. As there was no chaplain on the base Pat supported the families, who often had no family of their own around them, as an unpaid Chaplain’s Assistant. Pat also used this time to preach in all sorts of different churches and contexts, always telling people about the work of Church Army.
In 1983 the family returned to England, and moved to Cambridge and Pat continued her ministry at RAF Wyton.
In 1994 Bill was moved to RAF Innsworth and Pat became a non-stipendiary Parish Sister at St Michael and All Angels in Bishop’s Cleeve until she reached the cut-off age of 75.
For the last 22 years Pat and Bill have been involved at St Michael’s Church, Bishops Cleeve where Pat has particularly been involved in work with the elderly. When women’s ordination came, it was the end of military Chaplains’ Assistants.
The Revd Malc Allen, Team Rector, said, “Pat (with her husband Bill) have done really excellent pastoral ministry over many years amongst our regular midweek Holy Communion congregation. Pat would always be chatting to individuals before and after the service. During the service each week she would keep the congregation up to date with a members’ illnesses and needs. She visited, called, helped, prayed for so many.
“She (and Bill who was great at practical things) were really the overseers of this congregation. Various clergy were on the rota. I would find myself walking into St Michael’s with everything set up, people chatting to one another, and laughter. Such was the sense of community she engendered, that sometimes it was a lovely bringing them to order, so as to start our worship! Even now, since Bill’s recent death, Pat continues to care for people on the telephone. I thank God for Pat’s ministry here.”
Pat writes, “Over the last 53 years I have had great joy in sharing in so many lives, the good times, the difficult and sad times. Lives that have changed as they chose to follow our Lord. What a blessing it has been and I thank God for his faithfulness.”
With thanks for the Church Army and Pat for permission to share her story.