Tributes paid to Mothers' Union Diocese of Norwich President
25 September 2021
The Diocese of Norwich Mothers’ Union has announced sadly the death of its President, Val Ovenden.
Past President, Marguerite Phillips described Val’s dedication:
A longstanding member of Mother’s Union, Val joined the Horning Branch when she moved to the area over 20 years ago and later became a Diocesan Member. Before taking on her role of Diocesan President, Val was both an Area Leader for Broadland and a General Trustee. As such she was a vital link for the members in Broadland for whom she organised regular meetings, thus maintaining a strong fellowship in that area.
Val was a quiet, very private person and above all faithful in prayer. She had a gentle quality as a caring and deeply faithful Christian and yet an inner strength that enabled her to take on the role of President shortly after the death of her husband Reg, for whom she had cared for a number of years. She saw this as an opportunity for a new beginning, a new calling.
In 2019, Val could not have envisaged such a tough three years. Orthopaedic surgery made it hard for her to get to national meetings, but she led us at all our diocesan gatherings at St Luke’s and then faced the challenge of holding us together on Zoom. Her background in computing meant that she was more adept at this than most of us.
Passionate about the worldwide mission of members to support families in adversity and to care for all families in whatever circumstances they find themselves, Val encouraged our members to continue the help for refugees in our Diocese from Syria and recently Afghanistan. Also with our Diocesan Projects supporting disadvantaged local families with holidays by the sea and the provision of Christmas gifts for prisoners’ children at HMP Watton. In addition, she embraced the new Mothers’ Union links with the Clewer Initiative bringing attention to and combating modern slavery.
Above all, Val will be remembered for her dedication to the welfare of the poorest and disadvantaged in the world and for the quiet and gracious example she set us.
Just as we were about to escape the Zoom room and meet again in person, Val was looking forward to the next three years, having only recently been re-elected. Her passing leaves the members and the trustee board in a state of shock.
And so, as we give thanks for all that Val did on our behalf in the knowledge that she is at peace in God’s loving arms, we pray earnestly for God’s guidance on the trustees as they seek to find a new leader.
The Revd Andrew Whitehead, Chaplain to Mothers’ Union said:
“As Chaplain to the Mothers’ Union in the Diocese, it’s been my great pleasure to work alongside Val over recent years. Her kind and pastoral leadership of the organisation was combined with amazing clarity of thought; both of these became essential through the turmoil of the pandemic. Val was quick to advocate the use of technology to keep branches in contact; she saw the value of new communication tools and was swift to embrace the world of ‘Zoom’ to meet the unprecedented need we all faced. Val also had a gift which is sometimes absent in leaders; she was an encourager and collaborator; able to recognise and nurture the gifts she saw in others, happy to see them flourish.”
Bishop Graham said:
“At the heart of Val’s life was her faith in Jesus Christ and from that welled up her care for others. I am grateful for all that she contributed to the Mothers’ Union over many years and most recently as its Diocesan President. I enjoyed my conversations with her, seeing in her a gentleness combined with a deep concern for her neighbours, not only locally, but also through the different links overseas. Mary Sumner wrote that members of the Mothers’ Union ‘bound ourselves together to love and help one another’. Val lived that out and now knows what it is to be bound in the eternal love of God. May she rest in peace having helped so many.”