The Tavistock corps of the Salvation Army bid a special farewell to Major Pamela Smith at the United Reformed Church today.
In an emotionally charged service containing laughter and tears, members of both the Salvation Army and the Tavistock community turned out so say their goodbyes to Pamela, who has been posted in Tavistock for the last six years working in a community outreach capacity.
The service began with a welcome from Captain Diana Merritt and Fiona Broom, Major from divisional headquarters who was visiting from Exeter.
Fiona said: ‘We thank and acknowledge Pamela for her service for many years. Members of the corps have been grateful for her leadership over the years.’ Addressing Pamela, she continued saying: ‘You have a huge amount of compassion. The Tavistock Salvation Army will always hold you in their hearts. Thank you for your work, helping and supporting people in the community’.
Everyone in attendance sang Let Us All Unite To Sing with a band accompaniment.
David Palmer, a representative from TACT (Tavistock Area Christians Together), spoke of working with Pamela, saying: ‘This is the time to say a huge thank you from TACT. You are a blessing to us and so well known, even over the border in Cornwall too! You are always smiling, laughing and happy. I have never seen Pamela sad.’ He then highlighted many things Pamela has spearheaded during her time in the town such as unity services, lunches and running a café for Ukranian refugees who have found a new home in the town.
David finished by saying: ‘The atmosphere lightens when she comes into the room. We will always be brothers and sisters here but for now she has a lot of great work to do in Plymouth. We will all miss you and be praying for you. You have left a great model for us to follow.’
Ann Luxton, Secretary for Tavistock Corps, then took to the stage, wishing Pamela the best for the future and thanking her for being ‘a kind a thoughtful person who has always given her help and encouragement to those who most need it’.
Members of the Ukrainian community with whom Pamela has worked closely since last year presented her with flowers and gifts and sang for her.
The final speaker, Ross Mitchell, a representative from Catalyst, spoke of the extensive and invaluable work Pamela has done with youngsters at Tavistock College, which has ten feeder primary schools, with some pupils coming from challenging and disadvantaged backgrounds. Ross finished by saying: ‘She has given her most valuable asset: her time. Ultimately we are thankful to you for just being you.’
Those in attendance then enjoyed a PowerPoint presentation showcasing a range of photographs and videos of her involvement with many projects in the community such as those aforementioned and the toy recycling project, which was founded two years ago by local mum Isabel Williams, with the two women teaming up to ensure no child went without a gift at Christmas time after people from Tavistock and the surrounding areas passed on toys, books, games, DVDs and puzzles in new or good condition to those in need.
Pamela finished by thanking everyone involved in the afternoon’s service. She said: ‘It’s been a privilege to be here in Tavistock and you have all blessed me so much with all the time you have shared together. This will be my last message in corps ministry office having been with the Salvation Army for 35 years and delivered 1,400 sermons. I will remember your partnership and my prayers will be with you all.’
Pamela’s parting message then focused on remembrance and memory, imploring those in attendance to hold onto their memories and faith during difficult times, with entreaties to remember love, never to be afraid of the future and to always treat others well.
To finish the service, everyone sang Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean with the band then playing I’ll Go in the Strength of the Lord.
Lieutenant colonel Joan Williams of Tavistock Corps, who organised the service, also said her thanks and presented Pamela with further gifts and flowers and a garland which signified being held in esteem.
Now her time in Tavistock has come to an end, Pamela will be moving on to work at Devonport Lifehouse in Plymouth, a supported residential medium term accommodation solution, as a Salvation Army chaplain, providing pastoral and spiritual support for single people over the age of 18, who are vulnerable, experiencing homelessness or struggling with drug and/or alcohol addiction. Although her role will now be without ministries, Pamela will still be working as a Major.
Pamela said: ‘A new officer will be coming in to fill this position in Tavistock — Captain Theresa Conway. She’s a really inspirational person and has a huge heart for outreach. I’m really overwhelmed with everyone’s kindness and generosity. It’s so lovely for the Ukrainian community to come and support too — I’m grateful to everyone. Today has really been a community coming together. I just expected I could go quietly, so this has been a really nice surprise.’