Despite the relative freedom that singleness brought him, John Stott would never have achieved everything he achieved in his 90-year life were it not for one person: Frances Whitehead. Her legacy is truly unique:

  • She was John’s secretary for nearly 60 years, of which the first 2 decades or so were spent as the All Souls church secretary. Though in reality, that essentially meant being John’s.
  • She helped him with his correspondence and organisation of all the various projects, charities and movements that he created. Apparently, in his heyday, John would write/dictate 30 letters a day, many of them substantial and complex.
  • She typed up the manuscripts of almost all of John’s 50+ published books, including the greats like The Cross of Christ, The Message of Romans (BST), The Contemporary Christian, The Incomparable Christ and his wonderful swansong, The Radical Disciple.
  • She helped to manage his care and visitors after his retirement, including making sure that those of us who went to visit him in his retirement home didn’t all descend on him at once.
Launching Julia Cameron’s biography of Frances: (l to r) Chris Wright (Int’l Director Langham Partnership), Frances Whitehead, Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith (John Stott’s biographer)

Frances was as long-lived and faithful as the man she so assiduously served. But in recent years, she inevitably battled illness and frailty. So it was bitter-sweet this morning to hear the news that she died yesterday afternoon at her home in Bourne End (just down the road from where we now live). She was 94. She has indeed been promoted to glory to join the heavenly throng before the great Master.

But of course, there is SO much more to her than being a mere secretarial factotum. She was a truly remarkable person, with an unexpected back story. To find out more, do get hold of Julia Cameron’s lovely biography.

And before that arrives, do listen to the interview I did with her, which in fact was the catalyst for Julia’s book.

More details of that on a previous post.

Soon after joining All Souls, Rachel and me at lunch with Frances and Uncle John

This Post Has One Comment

  1. I once had tea with Frances at her home in Bourne End and mentioned that I’d been trying to find a quote from the Cross of Christ (the self satisfaction by self-substitution one) for a talk I was preparing – and found it, eventually! Frances was rather cross with me and said “you should have asked me, I could have told you. Do ask me next time!” Such was the sharpness of her mind and memory. She was a true servant and is now safely home with the Lord.

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