Celebrating the Ministry of the Revd Barbara Howitt

Thank you BarbaraThe Revd Barbara Howitt, who first came to St Botolph's as a curate in 2000, has recently stood down from being Assisting Priest, to become Retired Priest. On Sunday 1st July we held a special service to celebrate her ministry, which was followed by a lunch. She was presented with a painting of the church by Phil Hemsley, a cheque from the congregation and an autograph book signed by members of the congregation. Her two first incumbents at St Botolph’s, Fr. Haydn Smart and Canon Bill Croft, and other members of the congregation, wrote tributes in the July/August Magazine:

Barbara came to St Botolph’s as a curate in July 2000, but I had known her for many years before that. When I was a curate in Northampton, Barbara’s husband John was my Rural Dean and he and Barbara were very supportive to us. We lost touch for a while, but then when Vera and I came to Longthorpe in 1992 John, who was then vicar of St John’s Church in Peterborough, was again my Rural Dean. John unfortunately died soon after his retirement and it was a few years later that Barbara explored her own vocation to ordained ministry. It was a great joy when Bishop Ian asked if I would accept Barbara as a curate and she became my colleague. I had and have great respect for her as a teacher and a theologian. I remember a meeting that took place between Bishop Ian and training incumbents. The various incumbents were asked to introduce themselves, saying where they came from and the name of the curate they were training. When it came to my turn I said I was from Longthorpe and I was being trained by Barbara Howitt! I feel Barbara and I made a good team working together and we have remained very firm friends.
Haydn Smart

I first encountered Barbara when she was exploring the possibility of ordained ministry. I was Diocesan Director of Ordinands at the time. Little did I know that one day she would be a colleague. When I came to Longthorpe I was blessed with several people being in various forms of ministry and they made a great team. Barbara, of course, was assisting priest and for the whole of my time at Longthorpe (2004- 2016) she was a great priest colleague. Although we met regularly to reflect on ministry and support each other, I think I only glimpsed a small part of Barbara's contribution to parish life. I worked with her liturgically and listened to her preach (all sermons were well prepared and delivered – as you'd expect from a former teacher), but going on day by day and week by week was her unstinting pastoral ministry which was greatly appreciated. She has a great pastoral heart. Barbara had great wisdom in knowing when to step down and lessen the load of ministry as the years went by. As she comes to retire it might be worth reflecting that it is not how much we do but the way we do it that counts for so much. Thank you, Barbara, for the ministry we shared when I was at St Botolph's.
Bill Croft

Barbara was a much respected and liked colleague of mine at the King’s School. As head of RE and then deputy head, she was always someone you could go to if you needed a listening ear. I know she was concerned about the decisions that her role involved and remember her once telling me that the head said to her: ‘You just make the decision and go forward without looking back’. Her integrity, conscience and keen awareness of people’s sensitivities didn’t always make that easy for her! My family therefore welcomed Barbara to St Botolph’s warmly, knowing how much she would bring to our community. Two memories of her ministry here stick out for me. When my mother came to live with us as she got frail, she struggled with getting to and through church services. Barbara made a home communion visit which Jim and I shared. It was a beautiful, peaceful occasion. When Mummy died it was Barbara who came round to discuss the funeral arrangements. Our grandsons, 7 and 5 at the time, were sent off for “quiet time”, which they thought was no longer part of their routine. But they went away as requested, only reappearing when all was sorted. Barbara, as always, blessed the occasion and brought smiles to everyone’s faces by commenting on how extremely well-behaved they had been.
Jane Hogg

When I moved back to Peterborough 8 years ago the boys were 5 and 7, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to return to worship at the church where many people still remembered me when I was that age. Plus I had built up the children’s ministry from nothing at my church in London, and thought that God would want me somewhere where I could do the same again, rather than where there was already wonderful children’s ministry. But then again, I felt at home at St Botolph’s. I talked it through with Barbara and she helped me see what God saw: that, following the breakdown of our family, what the boys and I needed was to be embraced by a community who knew and loved us, where the boys would have their spiritual needs met without me having to divert my time and energy away from them while I met the spiritual needs of other children. And she was absolutely right. She was also absolutely right back in 1986 when I threw my woodwork project at the teacher and stormed out of the lesson. I had made a precocious comment about the quality of the man’s teaching (which 32 years later as a university lecturer in education I still agree with, but understand that it was possibly not appropriate of me to raise it during the lesson). He retorted by saying I was a spoilt child because I lived on Audley Gate and my parents drove a Volvo. I was sent to Barbara, as pastoral deputy head. She could see that both of us had acted inappropriately and rather than punishing either of us she fixed up a time for us to meet and apologise to each other. It was an extremely important lesson for me. When I reminded her of this some quarter of a century later she said in her wonderful understated way, “yes, people often say I have a talent for pouring oil on troubled waters.”
Fiona Yardley

In November 2004 Barbara and I were privileged to be invited to the Confirmation of Sabine Lijesen in Naarden, near Amsterdam. Nowadays of course, Sabine and her two young sons, Benjamin and Tobias, are well known to all of us at the 9.30 service. But in 2004, Sabine, a young Dutch GP working in Market Deeping, was relatively new to St Botolph’s church and less familiar to everyone. And so, with much pleasure, Barbara and I flew from Stansted to Amsterdam and caught a train to the delightful small town of Naarden where Sabine met us and took us to stay for two nights at the home of her parents, Marijke and Chris. We were able to see a little of the area around, and the fascinating town of Naarden itself, surrounded by its unusual moat. The following day Sabine was confirmed at the Grote Kerk, the church of her parents, which she too had attended as a child, a beautiful historic building. Of course much of the service was conducted in Dutch but Barbara was able to take part, representing the support that she and our church would be offering to Sabine in the years ahead. After the service we met with Sabine’s extended family and Dutch friends. In the evening Marijke drove us out to a typical Dutch pancake restaurant, before delivering us to Schipol Airport for our flight home.
Elaine Hunt

The compassionate, meaningful way Barbara administered Easter communion to my husband and me during his stay in a nursing home I will never forget. It was indeed an Easter Blessing at the most darkest time for us. Her work in the parish during the interregnum went far beyond any expectations of a priest. Thank you Barbara for your ministry. Have a healthy blessed retirement.
Betty Willcox

We met Barbara when we first started attending St Botolph's, but got to know her better when we decided to go ahead and become confirmed. She visited our home, she made it easy and flexible without pressure. She showed us love, prayed with us, but most importantly made us feel part of the St Botolph's family. She shared with us from her vast knowledge and experience of life generally. Though we are not always able to stop and chat, we would love to say to her, thank you Barbara, for giving us your time and support; we wish you the very best now and always.
Kayode & Anthonia Williams

Thank you BarbaraI would like to say how much I have valued Rev Barbara's ministry -

  • her great sermons over many years - always wishing I could hear them again - so many words of wisdom and knowledge
  • Her gentle, kind ways - her modesty of having such talents of speech
  • Her thoughtfulness and help at all times
  • Her interesting character and great spirit.
  • Her friendly smile from her heart

Thank you, Barbara.
Pat Hind