Ripples in a Pond

Today we celebrated the unveiling of the monument in honour of Betty Campbell and which stands in Central Square in Cardiff City centre. Heres the homily preached at her funeral at St Mary’s Church by Fr Dean in 2017

I saw Betty on several occasions before her death. The last time, though, that I saw her ‘out and about’ was, I think, at the monthly quiz at the Community Centre at the beginning of September and, before that, at the Commonwealth Torch Relay which wound its way back to the Butetown Centre. In the midst of that crowded room, as she exchanged words with so many people, she turned to me and said of one, “She was one of my pupils,” and then, pointing to someone else, “And he was too.”

“Betty,” I said, “it would probably be easier for if you just pointed out people you haven’t taught.”

She laughed.

On the wall of another headteacher’s office, I once read the quote, “Teachers affect eternity.”

The influence Betty has had upon countless numbers of children – and of staff – is immeasurable, and has continued and will continue in the lives of those to whom she gave so much, and who in turn will also influence so many others, like ripples in a pond.

Yes, teachers affect eternity and it is eternity which gives colour and meaning to this funeral celebration today. Christians believe that we are made to live with God for ever, and that through the death and resurrection of Christ, this destiny can become a reality.

The symbols placed upon her coffin speak of eternity: the white pall, a reminder of the baptismal garment, when Betty was first clothed in Christ. The cross, with which she was marked in baptism, and the gospels, the Word of Life. The Paschal candle burning near her coffin, a visible and living reminder of Christ’s triumph over death and his risen presence.

Each week, throughout her life, Betty celebrated the Eucharist in this place, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

In the weeks before her death, her family and those close to her, saw her gradually but quickly weaken. At home, she received the Sacrament of the Eucharist, food for the journey, a pledge of eternity and the Laying on of Hands and anointing with holy oil, the sacrament of Christ’s soothing presence.

Later in this Mass, we will hear eulogies from Betty’s family, and we will hear more about her extraordinary life. Although, of course, for her family, it is not Betty’s achievement and wider influence which will run deep today but the fact that they mourn the death of a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend.

Betty lived and worked in this community, she worked for the community, she fought for this community a community of which she has been and will always be an intricate part, although her influence extended further, much further, like ripples in a pond.

At the many eulogies she gave at funerals here at St Mary’s, there was always an innate sense of joy and pride, a deep sense of belonging, along with a melancholic tone to her voice of Tiger Bay days gone by, but also a stubborn and inspiring tenacity for the Tiger Bay Community, even in the midst of change.

Communities can so easily gain a reputation that is simply not true.Yes, the Docks, Tiger Bay, Butetown, has had its moments, its characters, its tough times, its rough times and it still has challenges and changes to deal with, but it has been built on the back of immigration, of different faiths and cultures, living alongside one another, rubbing shoulders, holding hands.

Apart from the many eulogies she gave here, the last time I heard Betty publicly speak, it was this in which she rejoiced and which she celebrated, drawing our attention to the different colour faces she could see in the room before her.

This acknowledgement of ‘difference’ is something which stands strong in the story of Betty Campbell. It was what made Tiger Bay, what Tiger Bay was, what Tiger Bay is, and it will determine what this community will be in the future, and whose influence lies beyond its own boundaries like ripples in a pond.

It’s why all of us, regardless of whether we were born in Butetown, or what colour our skin, or what faith and belief rests in our hearts can, along with Betty, because of Betty, say, ‘I am Tiger Bay.’

May the Lord, in whom she trusted, the Lord whom she loved, and who filled her life with so many blessings, have mercy on her now, and welcome her into her heavenly home.

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