Stella was born on February 2nd, 1912, at the home of her grandparents, Joseph and Lucy Woodwards, in Stewkley, Bucks., the first child of Cyril and Edith (nee Woodwards) Moxon. The little family, later increased by the arrival of Bertram, stayed in Stewkley until 1915 when they moved to Pearith near Didcot, (then Berkshire), where Cyril, who had been in the Army, transferred to work on the land. Stella stayed in the care of her grandparents for another 3 years during which time she became part of the Sunday School at the Stewkley PM Church. You can read her memories of that time here. Those grandparents, that chapel and that village ever remained deeply loved by her and during that time, as the child she was, she had an experience of Christ which never left her.
She then re-joined her parents, Bertram and new brother Joe. Each day she (and, later, her Bert), walked the path through the fields to school at Long Wittenham. When Stella left school she went “into service” as did so many young women at that time. Later, she had to leave and look after the family when Edith’s health gave concern (she later recovered).
The family were very much part of the Didcot PM Church. Stella taught herself to play and quickly became one of the organists. She was one of the PM congregation who marched up Didcot Broadway to join the Wesleyan fellowship at Methodist Union. There she became the principal organist and continued as such for 60 years. She was an inspiring musician and, led by her, the Didcot church became noted for its singing. None who were there during the war years would ever forget the inspirational evening worship, the numbers swollen by service men and women from the local garrison and from the RAF base at Harwell, many of whom were from the Methodist tradition and had learned to sing in harmony the great hymns. Those hymns she loved but also, and especially, she treasured the great evangelical hymns which meant so much to her. Att home at the piano she and her mother rejoiced in singing them, not only from their much loved PM tradition but also from Sankey and or Redemption hymn books.
In 1931 Stella married Albert Rowland from Upton, three miles from Didcot. Albert worked in the bakery founded by his father. (The Rowlands, from Sparsholt and Childrey in the Vale of the White Horse, were Wesleyan Methodists.) I was born, the only child of my parents, in 1933. Throughout their lives, as long as health and then age allowed, they were deeply involved in the life of the church which meant, after Union, at Didcot and in the Wantage and Wallingford Circuit. My mother was organist and choir mistress, a Class Leader, for many years President of the Women’s Fellowship and a representative to Circuit Meetings and, on occasion, to the Oxford and Gloucester District Synod. My father became a Local Preacher, and served the local church as Trust Secretary and Society Steward. Mum acted as book-keeper and treasurer for the family business and that became especially onerous after the war when bread rationing was introduced and BU’s (Bread Units) had to be collected and accounted for. Unfortunately the family business ceased in the early 1950’s.
Stella became sought after as a speaker to women’s meetings and fellowships in and around Didcot in the old North Berkshire and exercised a ministry to many in that way. But she was always there to care for family and friends when they were in need. She nursed her mother through her final illness (Edith died in 1967) and cared for her father until his death in 1975. Above all her care for my father was unstinting as he became less and less able through Parkinson’s Disease. From 1950 they lived in the house they had had built at Upton and there their grandchildren Noel and Philippa spent many happy days. Stella learned to drive. She had to take her test a number of times but persisted because she knew the time would come when Dad could drive no more. Then they moved back to Didcot to be closer to church, family, friends and shops. Dad was in hospital at the time of their Golden Wedding but was able to return home for a few hours. A month later he died. Stella’s service in the Didcot church continued until, early in the 1990’s, she moved to Basingstoke where I was Minister. After my retirement to Kennington she spent the last year of her life in residential accommodation next to my and Joan’s home. She died in 2004.
Discovering, after her death, notes of her talks, I published a selection of them under the total “God in the Everyday.” How apt that title was for that childhood experience kept her throughout her life, in good times and bad. She was aware of the presence of God not only in music and worship but in the garden she loved so much, in the flowers she tended and in the care she gave to family and friends. I ended the introduction to the book with the following, and I include it here for it encapsulates the faith in which she lived and died. It appeared in the supplement to the PM Sunday School hymn book which was published in 1912, the year of her birth, and is from Annie Herbert’s hymn “When the mists have rolled in splendour”:
- We shall come with joy and gladness, We shall gather round the throne;
- Face to face with those that love us, We shall know as we are known;
- And the song of our redemption Shall resound through endless day,
- When the shadows have departed And the mists have rolled away.