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Norwich church couple honoured at the Palace 

Norwich couple David and Ruth Southgate were presented with MBEs at Buckingham Palace recently for their work over more than 50 years in building a city church, running community projects and raising over £65,000 for numerous charities with the Meadow Way Orchestra. Keith Morris reports.

David, 82, and Ruth, 79, of Hellesdon, founded Meadow Way Chapel in May 1971 and builder David literally constructed it on land near their own home on Reepham Road, with the help of others.

Well-known in the community for running their shop Cards n Things, as well as numerous community projects, the couple received their MBEs together from the Princess Royal in an Investiture Ceremony in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace in early March, watched by their four sons.

A couple both receiving honours together is a very unusual occurrence, only happening once every couple of years and a special video was made to mark the occasion, which you can see here or below.

“We thought the emails from the Cabinet Office were a scam at first,” said Ruth. “Being recognised and honoured in such a way had never entered our heads.

David said: “Ruth is probably the driving force and comes up with the ideas. But we always work closely together and complement each other well. God has called us to do these things, practical things, which sometimes, non-Christians find hard to understand.

Ruth said: “It is a partnership and we each do some things on our own as well. To get the award at all was something we had never dreamt of. You see there’s a need and, with our Christian faith, you get a vision to help.”

David added: “You don’t dream of getting an MBE. What we do just comes naturally.

“We do what we do for the community because we love doing it.”

“On the day of the investiture, I remember being slowly driven down The Mall by one of our sons, going through security and the big Palace gates,” recalls Ruth.

After joining a queue, the couple were ushered into the Throne Room where their sons and their wives were ready to watch the ceremony. David and Ruth were greeted by the Princess Royal and had their medals pinned on by her.

Ruth said: “She was so kind, she mentioned Colman’s Mustard and referred to the chapel we had built with our team. There was a music ensemble playing music in the background, some of which we played in the orchestra, which I mentioned to the Princess and told her about the fundraising.”

Most appropriately, the ensemble played Nobody Does It Better by Carly Simon while the couple were receiving their medals.

“The music was just the icing on the cake,” said Ruth, who also mentioned to the Princess Royal that two of their daughters-in-law Helen (a coach) and Sue (a volunteer), who were watching on, are involved in the charity Riding for the Disabled, which the Princess was very pleased to hear as she is its president.

“We are here to thank you for all you have done, the Princess said to us,” recalled Ruth.

In a personal video of their investiture, King Charles says: “I think one of the most important things is to be able to reward in a suitable way the selfless service and dedication of so many of these remarkable people for the marvellous things they have done.”

William, the Prince of Wales, says: “When talking with the recipients at these investitures I am reminded of all the great things they have done to earn their rewards, the long service they have given, the considerable achievements they have reached and the selfless commitments they have made to their communities.”

Anne the Princess Royal says: “I hope that the example set by these naturally generous and determined people will not be underestimated and that they will have enjoyed the experience of today.”

David and Ruth finished off their special day with afternoon tea at a nearby hotel with all their sons and daughters-in-law and four generations of the family.

But although the couple are taking things a bit easier these days, they are still fully occupied.

Last spring Meadow Way Chapel transitioned into part of Gateway Vineyard, under the leadership of former Meadow Way members Marc and Katie Lillystone. “We are very pleased with how it has all gone now,” said David, who admitted it was difficult letting go of “my baby”.

The Orchestra is still going strong, although David had a medical incident in 2018 while conducting the orchestra during a Christmas concert and had to go to hospital.  He subsequently had to step back from the role, but David and Ruth are delighted that a former school head of music in Reading, Bernard Soper, is now the conductor and will be leading the concert at the Gateway Vineyard Chapel, in Chapel Court, Hellesdon on Monday June 19 at 8pm.

Tickets will be available from Cards n’ Things from May 3 or on the door for £5 and will raise funds for MIND, the latest in a long list of charities to have benefitted from the concerts including the Nook Appeal, the Air Ambulance, Nelson’s Journey, the Stroke Association and Macmillian Cancer Support.

A further project which the couple hope to see completed, through the recently registered Hawthorne Meadow Trust, is the building of four retirement bungalows on ground next to the Chapel.

Read our previous story about David and Ruth.

Pictured above are David and Ruth Southgate with their MBEs.


Read the full article here

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