Page last updated at 09:27 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 10:27 UK
Woman church minister dies at 103
Roy Jenkins and Peggy Newell-Lewis
Roy Jenkins interviewed Peggy on her one hundredth birthday

One of the first female church ministers in Wales has died at the age of 103.

Peggy Newell-Lewis was pastor of the Bethany Baptist church at Six Bells, near Abertillery in Blaenau Gwent.

The widow of a headmaster, the former magistrate and teacher of speech had spent all her life in the village.

Peggy was convinced from the age of 16 that she should be ordained but waited until her 60s to become a minister, preaching into her late 90s.

One of her earliest experiences as a pastor was to comfort families bereaved by the Six Bells pit disaster of June 1960.

Forty five men were killed in an underground explosion at the Arrael Griffin colliery.

The Reverend Roy Jenkins interviewed Peggy for BBC Radio Wales in July 2006 shortly after her hundredth birthday.

He paid tribute to "a tough and very determined woman."

"She'd been fobbed off when she first said she felt she should become a minister, but the sense of call never left her," he said.

"She was a lay-preacher for many years, but had to wait until she was 60 to be ordained.

"It was a very courageous step, but she'd never given up on her dream of becoming of a pastor, and she served with great enthusiasm until she retired at 80 - and was still preaching into her nineties.

"She exercised a most distinctive ministry, and many people have been grateful for it."

The Reverend Ray Vincent, a retired Baptist minister from Bedlinog who was mentored by Peggy, said she would be remembered with great affection by "a huge circle of friends."

"She was a determined woman, with firm principles and high standards, and at the same time very loving and caring," he said.

"While her body became more and more infirm, she maintained her full mental capacities to the end of her life.

"One of her chief joys was a weekly visit from the children of Bethany, who would tell her what they had learned in Sunday School and sing to her, with the occasional side glance at the place where they knew she kept a box of chocolates specially for them."

Did you know the Reverend Peggy Newell-Lewis? Send your comments to wales.southeast@bbc.co.uuk

Beverley Evans
The Rev Newell-Lewis was my Godmother. To say she was a teacher of speech does her a disservice; she was actually an elocution teacher which involves considerably more than teaching pupils how to speak properly! She taught my mother elocution in the 1930s and 40s; mum went on to gain her bronze, silver and gold medals from LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) - Auntie Peggy being similarly qualified herself - and also became an elocution teacher. Their friendship lasted through many decades despite a 20 year age difference and when I was born, just before she was ordained, Auntie Peggy and her husband Lou were asked to be my Godparents. Both were deeply convicted in their faith and were a support to each other through the years, latterly mostly via phone calls several times daily. This support was especially valued by mum when my father died 4 years ago and it was a source of shock and great disbelief when mum died very suddenly last July. I have heard Auntie Peggy say many times that she could not understand why the Lord took others to be with Him yet she was left, despite her great age.

Tania Britten
My husband and I were married by Peggy Newell-Lewis in 1990 at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Abertillery. She was covering this chapel as the minister had left. She had a reputation of being a no nonsense kind of person and so we both met her with trepidation. She was wonderful, made you relax in her company and was very charming. We did go along with whatever she suggested out of fear and inexperience as we were young and didn't know how to challenge her without upsetting her. But we had a marvellous day. Her service was very thought provoking and lots of our guests commented on the way she carried it out. She managed to make it quite personal even though we only met a few times. I haven't lived in Abertillery since we married but I've tried to keep track of her and was very pleased to see her photo in the newspaper of her celebrating her 100th birthday. I would not have expected less from her. I'm sure she will be very sorely missed in the community.

Kevin Brown
On behalf of TJ Brown & Sons our feelings and thoughts are with you. My father would have known Peggy better than me and as he is no longer with us, it is only right for me to pass on our kind regards.




SEE ALSO
Woman minister on Abertillery life
26 Mar 10 |  Religion & Ethics

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