The Parish of St Michael and All Angels, Withyham

and All Saints, Blackham

East Sussex

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picture of Withyham church
St Michael and All Angels, Withyham

picture of Blackham church
All Saints, Blackham


Letter from the Rectory February 2019

Dear Friends,

Simon Thomas was someone who seemed to have everything. Having been a ‘Blue Peter’ presenter for six years, he’d joined Sky Sports going on to present Premier League football. He had a lovely wife and a son.

But then his dream turned into a nightmare. On 25 November 2017 he wrote on Twitter, ‘Today I am crushed with indescribable pain. Just three days after falling ill with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, my dear wife Gemma passed away yesterday evening surrounded by her family and friends.’ He added, ‘If you are a prayer - pray for my boy Ethan. 8 years, precious and in bits. Thank you.’

Simon and Gemma were active Christians, describing their faith as the foundation on which their marriage was built. Before Gemma was ill, Simon said, “My faith is about God walking through life alongside me, being part of my life, not just on a Sunday when I go to Church with the family. My relationship is all-encompassing and that includes my work. I know that without God my job would be a lot harder.”

For Simon, Gemma ‘s death has been a massive challenge especially as there was so little time to prepare for it. After Gemma died, Simon was asked if he still believed in God. He replied, “If I take my faith out of the equation, then at that moment any hope disappears.” In John 11:25 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

Whilst the shock and pain was indescribable, Simon said that he also felt a bizarre sense of peace. “They talk in the Bible about ‘the peace of God that passes all understanding.’ For most of my Christian life I didn’t know what that peace actually was or felt like. I thought it was just a peace you feel when you sit on a desert island or in your favourite place. But what it actually is, is having peace in the most unlikely places, in the most chaotic and fear-filled places. It gave me the strength to be able to walk out of that hospital that morning, having just been dealt the biggest blow I’ll ever have, and feel a sense of calm.”

James Campbell