BACK TO RINGWAY this morning where Mavis and her sons, together with a large gathering of family and friends, laid Fr Tommy Griffiths to rest in the churchyard there. Tommy, Mavis and I had enjoyed friendship over more than 30 years. They modelled the blessings of a good marriage. They were possessed of a down to earth holiness that was positively and inclusively life-enhancing. I was fortunate enough to be one of Tommy’s successors as Vicar of Ringway – and also delighted to be present recently at the Collation of Roger Clarke, another long standing friend, as the present day parish priest there.
Ringway has an idyllic little churchyard set around the old (and long closed) former parish church. You might be miles away from anywhere … until a Boeing 747 roars overhead en route for who-knows-where and you feel in your person the presence at hand of one of the world’s busiest international airports just over the hedge. And that’s fitting for Tommy, who was always able, exquisitely, to marry up the innate quietness of his prayer-life with a sense of being headed someplace really rather wonderful. Tommy embraced town and country, sacred and secular, old and young, rich and poor.
Fr Tommy loved God, life, wife, sons, home and parish. He used to say that the Christian life was “all about the homework”. What we got up to in Church was meant to be a blueprint for what we got up to in hearth and home. What we got up to in Church was to inform what we did in ordinary, everyday living in the ordinary, everyday world.
It struck me today, whilst driving back to Bramhall, that both Tommy Griffiths and Colin Slee were Associates of Kings College, London. And there were marked similarities between them. Tommy, like Colin, afforded the warmest of welcomes to any and all. Church for some folk was “underneath the arches”, for others it was gathered around his bar stool in the Bull’s Head pub. When the new synagogue was built across the road from his church he warmly welcomed “our brothers and sisters in the Spirit” – and they haven’t forgotten that warmth – and when I eventually turned up in the parish they welcomed me.
The sun shone upon a snowy scene this morning. I was glad to be there, glad to indulge in memories of all that had been, and as I left the little churchyard, clear as the day, I heard “Remember the homework, Love, remember the homework”.
Thomas Griffiths, who died 8th August 2010, husband, father, friend and faithful priest: Requiescat in pace.