Our Local Hero - Elsie Thornton

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, some do extrodinary things in far flung parts of the world, but some never leave their own home and town. Living as a christian and being faithful to what we know is right can be just as difficult as anything done by some famous heroes. This month I suggest we acknowledge an example of someone ordinary with faith and commitment from our own church.

Elsie Thornton is a home grown Redditch Baptist Church hero. Some of our members and friends will remember Elsie and one of our communion trays is engraved with a memorial to her. She was born in 1908 and was taken to our church as a child. She remained associated with our church for the 94 years of her life. She did not have an easy life but she faced the hard times with determination.

Elsie was an only a child of 14 when her mother went blind and so she became a carer for her Mum, she also cared for her aunt. As a young lady she became a Sunday School teacher and eventually Sunday School Treasurer. Elsie could become concerned about money, but her accounting system was something to behold and consisted of various scraps of paper kept loose in her handbag.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, some do extrodinary things in far flung parts of the world, but some never leave their own home and town. Living as a christian and being faithful to what we know is right can be just as difficult as anything done by some famous heroes. This month I suggest we acknowledge an example of someone ordinary with faith and commitment from our own church.

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Elsie Thornton is a home grown Redditch Baptist Church hero. Some of our members and friends will remember Elsie and one of our communion trays is engraved with a memorial to her. She was born in 1908 and was taken to our church as a child. She remained associated with our church for the 94 years of her life. She did not have an easy life but she faced the hard times with determination.

Elsie was an only a child of 14 when her mother went blind and so she became a carer for her Mum, she also cared for her aunt. As a young lady she became a Sunday School teacher and eventually Sunday School Treasurer. Elsie could become concerned about money, but her accounting system was something to behold and consisted of various scraps of paper kept loose in her handbag.

Our church premises in Easemore Road were opened in 1923 and Elsie became a member in 1924 and was one of the first people to be baptised in the church. Elsie saw 16 ministers come and go. She became a deacon in 1946 and was made a life deacon in the early 1970's. She was also active in the Redditch Christian Endeavour where she serve a president for a while.

In the past the church was also a centre for social life and entertainment and Elsie used to sing in some of the concerts that we staged there. Her speciality was singing "Three little maids from school are we" with two other ladies, she was the life and soul of the party. However, Elsie did get into trouble! The church kitchen used to be used as a men's billiard room. Women were allowed in but Elsie went into the room on one occasion. When the Deacons discovered what she had done  she was hauled before the deaons. (How times have changed!)

In the early 70's Elsie suffered a life threatening illness. She was in hospital for six months and had to learn to walk again after she was discharged. Her determination showed through eventually using a walking frame to get around, although many who saw her were not sure she needed it, she would often be seen carrying the walking frame in front of her rather than using it properly.

Elsie worked tirelessly for her Lord, doing more than many able bodied people at church. She did a lot but never look for or expected any recognition for herself. If there was a light on late and night at church it would probably be Elsie doing some job or other. One minister recalled having a knock of the door of the manse at 11 o'clock at night. It was Elsie who had been checking round church and had heard a noise and thought it was an intruder. On investigation the intruder was found - it was the minister cat. As well as her work as a Deacon, Elsie cleaned the church, visited the sick as well as delivering the monthly magazine to those who were unable to get to church.

Elsie was a faithful member of our church who used her time and talents to serve the Lord. She set and example for us to follow. She is probably the longest serving member of Redditch Baptist church, but was never one to boast, in fact her favourite hymn probably sums up Elsie and the way she lived for the Lord. Her favourite hymn was 'O the bitter shame and sorrow'. In each verse the last line emphasises the importance of us and God. In the first verse it is 'all of self and none of thee'. In the last verse it is 'none of self and all of thee'. Elsie's desire was to be an example of that last verse and I think she did. Elsie was a true saint and therefore must be a Baptist hero.

The words and information were written by Bill Shaw and also read words in the eulogy at Elsie's Memorial Service)