Love at The Mission

13th October 2022
From Argentina to Australia, the Mission has played a role in the love stories of couples across the world. 

Mabel and Max Wulff 

As far back as the 1900s love was in the air when a young woman called Mabel Philips worked at the Mission for Seamen in Newport. It was here that Mabel met and fell in love with a young German sailor by the name of Max Wulff. Shortly after their marriage, the couple moved to Germany. Amidst the challenges of World War II, their love and faith endured. For more than 40 years, Mabel cared for The Anglican Church of St Thomas à Becket in Hamburg, a role she was recognised for in the Queen’s 1956 Birthday Honours list. 

Wim and Grace van Rutten  

In 1967 the paths of Wim van Rutten, a Dutch engineer, and Grace Blanca Barfoot, a bank worker, crossed at the Mission’s centre in the port of Rosario, Argentina. Their initial meeting may have been fleeting, but the couple’s relationship grew as they exchanged letters for eight long years. On 26 December 1975, they finally married back in Argentina, with a reception in the Mission in Rosario the following day. Wim then spent 38 years working at sea, with three months away from home followed by about three months at home. The Mission continued to play an important role in family life, especially when they moved to Rotterdam and Schiedam. “I have spent many an hour playing in the pool, reading, and keeping busy while my dad volunteered behind the bar,” recalls their son, Ron.  

 Sarah and Gavin Tidman 

In June 2019, Sarah and Gavin Tidman were the last couple to exchange vows in the Mission’s former headquarters, St Michael Paternoster Royal. While Gavin’s uncle had been in the navy, the church was also a special place for Sarah who worked opposite the building for nearly 20 years. “I would go there, and it helped me to find a bit of peace,” says Sarah. Sarah became a regular at the Monday service and Gavin was baptised at the church shortly before their wedding. Since St Michael Paternoster Royal is not a parish church the couple had to wait six months to be granted a special licence; it was worth the wait! But that’s not where this story ends. The week after her wedding, Sarah returned to the church to take one last look at her flowers. While she was sitting, Dianna and David Montgomery wandered in. As chance would have it, they were married in the church 50 years earlier. 

Diana and David Montgomery 

Dianna and David met on board P&O liner Orosova – David was a deck officer and Diane an assistant purser. David had met Revd Vincent Castle, one of the Mission’s chaplains, during his ministry in the Royal Docks. “We thought it would be most appropriate to be married by a Missions’ Padre – and this became our great wish,” explains David. But preparing for a wedding while the bride and groom were aboard ships in different parts of the world without the luxury of email or text, was certainly a challenge. They were finally married in St Michael Paternoster Royal (SMPR) by Revd Castle on 17 May 1969. “We were the first people to be married in SMPR after the church’s re-consecration,” explains Diana.

Following the wedding, the couple moved to Australia and David had various roles in port management and development before retiring from a posting in the port of Surabaya, Indonesia in 2009. As part of their 50th wedding anniversary celebrations, the couple revisited the church in the hope of receiving a blessing. With no clergy on hand, they didn’t think it would be possible, but Sarah had Father Tim Handley on speed dial. One quick call and the couple’s wish were granted. Diane walked down the aisle carrying some of Sarah’s flowers and the Tidmans and the Montgomerys are now firm friends. 

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