From my earliest memories I have always believed in God.
My family believed in God and as a little girl, living in Elton Bury, I was sent to Wood Street Methodist Church with my sister Jean. We went on the Whit walks and one year I was maid of honour and carried the Queen’s train.
One vivid experience I had as a youngster thinking about God was when I went to a corner shop in Elton, Bury called Hambeys. I had in my hand a penny with the image of Britannia on, and I remember thinking this is not like God, God is much greater than this. Then as I became a teenager I stopped going to church, but I never stopped believing. I still believed in God and His Son the Lord Jesus Christ.
In due time I married, and with the hustle and bustle of married life I never did find the time to go to church. Sometimes I would pray, and I sent my children to Sunday school, but for many years I did not go to church.
By this time my family had grown up, and I was living in Ramsbottom. One day my daughter said something that was to change my relationship with God forever:
“Mum, there is a church open by the railway, and I believe they are inviting people to go and hear Billy Graham and I am going to ask to go.” Linda did ask and went on the coach and on the way was in conversation with a young lady called Louise. When Linda came back she decided to start going to church each week. This Linda did.
This made me think that it was about time that I also started to go to Church. So, in my 60s I started to go to church again. On going to church for the first time, I realised that my knowledge of the Lord was very limited. I continued to go to church regularly and enjoyed learning about God, his character, his ways (laws), and His dear Son the Lord Jesus Christ. I started reading the bible on my own and praying to God regularly; prayer became for me a deep feeling of knowing that the Lord was listening to me. Then came the opportunity for me to be baptised and I seized it with both hands. Oh how precious was that time, when I publicly confessed my commitment to the Lord! This was a most wonderful experience for me.
Now, my husband has died and my daughter, who also has kept the faith, is looking me after. I am so blessed that I have such a good daughter to look after me. I thank The Lord for all his goodness to me.
I feel blessed that I know the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. Even though I cannot manage to go to Church now, I know that I am part of the local family church, that I am loved, prayed for and helped whenever I need it.
I love reading the bible and like in particular the books of Mark and John in the New Testament. These tell of the Gospel, the good news, that Jesus, God’s eternal Son came down to earth to live amongst men; how He healed many, and told us about His Father and our Father. These books tell us how Jesus suffered and died for our sins.
I love and serve the one true and living God. The Lord Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour, who died for my sins and for all who will believe.
Tribute From Gary, Angela, Laura & Richard
We have very fond memories of Renee & also of her husband Bill, they were a lovely caring couple who will be sadly missed by all.
To us as a family, Renee & Bill were very much instrumental in locating our long lost Ukrainian Mother & Grandmother, whom we were able to know for eighteen months, until she sadly passed away. We will always remember the blessing we received through their support at that time & be forever grateful.
Tribute From Tony Flanders
It has been my privilege to get to know Renee over the past 7 years. Even though she has been unable to attend church in that time, it has been good to be able to visit her in her home and get to know her. Certainly, the impression I gained from most of my visits was that she can talk!!
From stories concerning: her singing in church, to being passed over as the Sunday school queen; her love of the bird life, to watching people walk on Holcombe hill: her memories of the war, to memories of her overseas travel; there never was a dull moment! However, another significant impression was that of contentment, despite her evident suffering. Renee was content in God, content in all His goodness, content in the gift of her loving family, and content concerning her future hope in Christ.
Tribute From Les and Anne Yates
It has been our joy to have known Renee and to have been able to enjoy fellowship with her over many years. Though we have not been able to see much of Renee over the last few years, on account of circumstances affecting both of us, we will always have fond memories of the fellowship we shared both in home visits and the church meetings in better days.
We shall miss Renee. The loss of lifelong Christian friends such as John Olive, Raymond and Muriel Gregory, Charles and now Renee leaves a void that can never really be filled. Our hope, however, is that one day we will all be reunited to share unbroken fellowship for an eternity in a realm free from pain, disease and suffering.
Renee’s contribution to the fellowship may not have been as noticeable as some of the more public ministries, but one of the ways Renee showed her love and care was, in what I would describe as, a ‘Dorcas’ ministry. Dorcas, you will remember, was the lady who lovingly made clothes and other items for many in the community and when she died was missed by all. Renee would spend hours embroidering framed pictures which would include texts of scripture which she would share with her brothers and sisters in Christ.
Here are two examples given to Ann and me which have given us much encouragement over the years.
Dorcas was raised from the dead and restored to her friends through the ministry of Peter, a foretaste of what will happen to Renee on the last Day.
Tribute From Rob Stredder
Visiting Renée was always a pleasure for me. I was always greeted with the warmth of her smile and the words “Eeh hello Rob”. She spoke about her family with great affection and often thanked the Lord for them. Conversation was always easy with Renée and she would always reflect on how blessed she was. A phrase that always readily flowed was “The Lord is good to me”.
We read and spoke about her favourite psalm 23 many times which she always found a great encouragement. She was confident that the Lord was her Shepherd and that she would dwell in the house of the Lord forever. The last time I visited her was sadly a couple of days before she went to be with the Lord and was struggling to converse due to the declining health. As I left, her eyes followed me as I walked round to the other side of the hospital bed. I leaned over and kissed her on the head and said, “Renée – I’ll see you on the other side”. She gave a smile of assurance as if to say, “You certainly will”.
Tribute From Jemimah
“Warm, friendly, welcoming” are the words that come to mind when someone says “Renee”. Every time I visited her I always came back with a smile. I will miss her very much.
Tribute From Yvonne Kinsey
I first met Renee when, as a new believer, I spent my Saturday afternoons serving tea and coffee to patients at the Cottage Hospital in Ramsbottom. Renee was one of a lovely group of nurses and staff who worked there at the time.
It was around that time her daughter Linda had started attending the church and had become a Christian. What a surprise it was to see Renee come to church with Linda as I didn’t know they were related! It wasn’t long before Renee was baptised and we became sisters in the Lord.
As Renee became less mobile, it was my privilege and joy to pick her up for church on Sundays and chat about the Lord and His word. In later years wherever I visited her; in her home, respite care, Linda’s house or in hospital, she was always peaceful and content, trusting in the Lord Jesus. She enjoyed sharing stories about her grandchildren and great grandchildren – I surprised Ryan once in school when I told him I knew about Renee and him sneaking Linda’s biscuits from the bottom of the fridge!
Renee had such a cheerful, thankful disposition and a deep love for her family and her Saviour. For me, her life was a living example of the Bible verse:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7
Tribute From Maureen Fleming
One of the many gifts the Lord gave Renee was embroidery and this is a lovely picture of her work, which she kindly did for me. My memories of Renee will always be of a much loved Christian lady who is now with her precious Saviour.
God bless you Renee
Tribute From Jim Hoyle
Some of my earliest memories of Renée centred around the Mums and Tots group at the church. Renée helped out in the kitchen. Maureen and I took our youngest grandchild Kathryn regularly. I recall Benedict, Oliver’s son, he was about the same age, 3 to 4 years old. Sometime later Oliver, (our pastor), set up visiting groups across our congregation. Renée was in my group. So, with Oliver, we started to visit Renée and her husband Bill regularly at their home near Nutall Park, Ramsbottom. Bills health was in decline which left Renée, Linda (her daughter) and family providing care for him.
I remember Renée, with all these concerns of life, saying, “I thank the lord every night for his help during the day”. Bill was called home to the Lord. Renée’s health also began to decline and Linda moved her mum to her home, near Holcombe Brook. It was here that on my visits I learned so much about Renée. She was about 11 years old when World War II started in 1939, (I was about five years old). Her vivid memories of the war and “getting on in the midst of danger,” showed me lady of considerable stamina, strength and resolve. Years after the war ended, Russia was opening up its borders to visitors! Remée always wanted to visit Russia so booked her ticket! I asked her “is it not dangerous?” She answered, “No, not in the least.” and went!
By this time Tony and Maggie had joined the church. Tony’s pastoral care helped Renée considerably. We had regular updates from Linda on her mums condition. Renée always showed that continuing deep trust and faith in the grace of God and the Lord’s care for his loved ones! And now? “Forever with the Lord.” Amen so let it be!
Tribute From Sarah Sharples
Renee has been a special sister to me since I joined the church. Her warmth and kindness shone out and her joy and trust in the Lord were such an encouragement. I’m so thankful to have known Renee and look forward to being together again, praising our wonderful Saviour. ‘You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures for evermore.’ Psalm 16v.11
Tribute From Oliver
I will always remember Renee for her loving disposition and deep concern for others. Soon after joining the church as minister we bought a house on Bury New Road, which was only a stone’s throw from Renee. She was so welcoming and loving towards us as a family and clearly very concerned that we should feel a part of the community. She greatly valued the emphasis on church life and building a church community where everyone felt loved and valued, even if they did not “fit the mould” of usual expectations. She would always go out of her way to welcome the outsider and make sure everyone felt “at home” with us.
When Renee could no longer worship with us for health reasons, she was greatly concerned to let us know that this was “my church”; that she still belonged; that she was with us in spirit even if not in the flesh. She would tell stories of her time with the believers here and remember with manifest pleasure days of worship, witness and fellowship in the Lord.
Renee was a profoundly thankful and contented lady, always appreciative of the loving care given by her daughter Linda and the support of the church.
She loved her family deeply and it was impossible to visit her in those final years without hearing all about her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – quite a tribe!
Above all Renee loved the Lord Jesus. She would speak of Him continually and wanted everyone to know that her trust was in the Lord, who was her Shepherd right to the very end. That Shepherd has now called her into His presence where she will remain for all eternity. I know it was her deepest longing that all her family might know the same joy, confidence and comfort that this brought to her, and we continue to pray that this will be so.
Renee Jones – absent from the body, present with the Lord. We will miss you and look forward to our reunion!
Oliver’s Sermon Notes
Over the years I have taken a number of funerals and I always seek to bring a message that springs out of the life of the person we are remembering. In the days leading up to the funeral, I think about their lives, the times I spent with them and the memories of others, and I write down some headings which then form the structure of my message.
However, with Renee, I have not been able to get beyond a single heading. I have tried to expand my thinking to other things and broaden my perspective, but each time I have done so I realised that they were all sub-headings in reality. In the end I have had to settle for a single word that speaks the fullness of Renee’s life; a single word that plums the depths of her remarkable character; a single word that tells us everything we really need to know about her.
Renee was a woman whose whole life was filled with love. Whoever you were, wherever you met her, whatever the circumstances, you got the same thing from Renee every time – LOVE. Simple, pure, deep, strong, unbreakable, all-embracing, compassionate love.
That’s why I have chosen as my text today John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
This text above all others in scripture shows us Renee’s heart and spirit.
1. Love comes from God
Renee was convinced that love comes from God. In fact, she was convinced that anyone who claimed to know God had to be filled with love because God is love.
When we first moved to Ramsbottom 20 years ago, the member of the church that lived nearest to us was Renee – she was just a stone’s throw away. Renee was never concerned about herself; there were no airs and graces with her; it was all “ee” this and “”aahh” that – she did not bother about things on the surface – she was interested in the heart. She used to look us in the eye, me and Alison, and tell us that she loved us and that we were welcome!
Many Rammy folk were not like that at all! They were suspicious of these posh folk from Cheshire who had arrived in town to tell everyone the message from God. Would they stick around? Were they the real deal? Even some in the church – how can anyone fill Raymond’s shoes?
But not our Renee. It was all love with her.
When we had been ministering here for a little while, I remember her speaking to me with tears in her eyes saying that she felt God’s love in the church in a new kind of way and she was so encouraged. Renee was our love-ometer! We knew if there was love in the church because Renee could sense it, rather life a love-sniffer-dogggie…
Renee became such a comfort to us in some difficult times here for us in the early years here that every time we saw her at the bus stop outside our home (“waitin’ fut buz t’Bureh” as she would put it) we would smile and our spirits would be lifted – she was that sort of person.
But where did Renee’s love come from? If you had asked her, she would never have said that it came from her; she would never have claimed to be the source of this love; she would have told you straight – “It’s from the Lord.” For God so loved…
Do you have this love? You won’t find it in yourself or in others – you will find it in God. The Bible says that God is love. All true love comes from Him and Him alone. He made the world in love; He upholds the world in love; He saves the world in love; and He will return one day to restore the world that we have ruined by our sin in His love.
Do you want to have a legacy of love such as Renee? You will find it in Renee’s God, the God of the Bible.
2. God’s love is for everyone
God so loved the world… Not just the rich, or the poor; not just the old or the young; not just the married or the single; not just the successful or the failures. God so loved the world. Renee believed that.
She was always so concerned for the outsider. She had a sixth-sense that could register when a person felt left-out or alienated or unhappy. Was that because she was so happily married for those many years to dear Bill from the Ukraine? What it because she was a nurse by profession and had such a caring and sensitive outlook? Were there other reasons? I am not certain, but this I know – Renee loved the outsider and was so concerned that we should love them too.
More than this, she wanted everyone to know the love of God. Renee was convinced that all our evangelism had to be about love. Reaching out to others in Christ’s name was all about reaching out in love. There was to be no hint of “we are better than you down at the church you know, so come along if you want to improve yourself.” Her approach was very different – we are all sinners together, but the love of God is for all of us just the same.
Many of us have the privilege of owning at least one cross-stitch done by Renee; we are blessed with three of them! There is one in the entrance foyer here that you can see above the hymn books – it has been there for many years! It’s a picture of an empty cross with the words: It wasn’t nails that held him to that cross, but his love for you and me. O that we would all listen to those words from dear Renee as she speaks directly to us!
Perhaps you feel like an outsider here this morning? Perhaps you are not often, if ever, in a church like this? Perhaps you feel that Renee’s religion, her faith, her trust in Christ is not for you? She would certainly want you to think again this morning. God’s love is for everyone, especially the outsider. God’s love is for you, if only you will receive it, as our text goes on to say…
Renee loved the outsider, and if you knew her, SHE LOVED YOU. Will you come to her Lord, from whom she received that love?
3. God’s love is a giving love
He gave His only begotten Son…
Renee was a giver! She gave so much. I have already referred to those cross-stitches that she loved to do and to give. She was very talented! We have one of a cottage beside a stream that must have taken her and unthinkable number of hours to complete! Yet as she gave all those hours, she did it in love with us in mind.
What did Renee give to you? If you knew her at all, I know for sure that she will have given you something, many things perhaps! One of those lovely cross-stitch pictures or texts? Or perhaps a meal or two or many (although it was probably cooked by Bill, with Renee providing the conversation). I remember those times visiting her with Bill in her home there by the park – I always came away so enriched…
Renee always had time; she wanted you to know that there was something special between you and her. And when it came to family, nothing was ever too much! What she gave to her family, and how she loved them. It was impossible to visit without hearing so much about Lee and Tracey and the children – she was so proud of them all and she loved them so much.
And she loved her church family too. She wanted us to know that although she could not be with us in those later years, she WAS with us in her spirit. The minibus… the stories of Raymond & co… the assurances of prayer…
Where did all this capacity to give come from? It came from the Lord God who gave His only Son. As on that cross-stitch in the foyer…
What did I have to do when Renee gave me that picture? I had to take it, to thank her for it, and to treasure it… Have you done that with God’s Son? Consider what He has given…
4. God’s love brings everlasting life
That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Where is Renee now? Her body is here… but her soul? Where is her soul? She is with Christ in glory! How can we be so sure? Because He died and rose again and ascended and promised… and Renee believed and trusted and followed and held on to that faith until the very end.
Renee’s faith in God’s love has brought her eternal life. Do you believe that for her? Surely that is such a great comfort…
But it is not automatic; it does not happen without faith on our part; we have this confidence for Renee because of her enduring faith.
Renee was such a thankful person. She was so thankful for all that Linda in particular did for her over those last years of her life. But more than this, she was thankful to God for His faithfulness in keeping her and watching over her right to the very end.
Do you have that same faith? Do you believe in the God who gave His only Son so that you might have eternal life?
It was Renee’s greatest desire that everyone here might share in her love – the love that comes from God, which is for everyone, that gives freely and brings eternal life. As you remember Renee, remember her love and the Lord who was the source of that love. By faith in the same Lord, you can know that same love.