On Monday 19th March 2012, Shipmates Graham Holt, John and Anne Hard, and Karl Webb attended the ‘Service of Thanksgiving’ to celebrate the life of our President, Chris Thomas. St Neots & District Branch of the RNA were also represented at the service by their Chairman, Keith Ridley.
A private funeral service was held on Monday morning; in the afternoon, over 300 guests made their way to the Parish Church of St Mary’s, in Buckden, for a ‘Service of Thanksgiving’ in order to celebrate Chris’s life. When Chris’s family arrived and had taken their seats, the Huntingdon Male Voice Choir rose and sang Gwahoddiad. The service began with a ‘welcome and introduction’ by the Reverend Ron Ingamells; this was followed by the first hymn to be sung by the congregation, Charles Wesley’s Love divine, all loves excelling. The first readings were by Chris’s daughters, Jo Steele and Kathryn Gordon; Jo read ‘Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3: verses 1-8’, and Kathryn read Bishop Brent’s poem ‘Remembering’.
The next hymn (William Williams’s Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer), was followed by tributes from a work colleague (Andrew Parkinson) and a member of the Vintage Car Club (Johnny Thomas), who both spoke of Chris’s love of his family, passion for his work and his many hobbies, especially with vintage cars. This was followed by the Lord’s my Shepherd (published in the Scottish Psalter, 1650).
Jamie Gordon was the next family member to address the congregation, he read John Masefield’s poem, Sea Fever, which was then followed by more ‘memories’ of their father by Chris’s other daughters, Bronwen Angel and Emma Thomas.
Reverend Ingamells read a number of prayers for Chris before the Reverend Ally Barrett sang H Walford Davies’s God Be in My Head. The final hymn was Julia Ward Howe’s Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of the Coming of the Lord. Reverend Ingamells ended the service with ‘The Blessing’. Following the families wishes, the ‘retiring collection’ is to be donated to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) or the British Red Cross.
The family also invited the congregation to ‘join them after the service’ at Chris’s home (address not published for security reasons). On arrival, guests were offered light refreshments and snacks; we also had the opportunity to reminisce of our experiences and fond memories of Chris. On behalf of the Huntingdon Branch, Graham, John and Karl, ‘presented’ Elspeth with a framed photograph of Chris during his last ‘official’ RNA function, the annual BBQ at his home last year.
After the ‘presentation’, we said our goodbyes to Elspeth and Chris’s family and headed off home. Tonight, as I write this summary of today’s events, I have raised a glass of Port to our President, Chris Thomas – Rest in Peace Shipmate.