The following article was published in ‘Reflections’ our church magazine (March 2019 edition) under the heading ‘Meet Clive Marritt’.
At the 3 February morning service, five of us were received into membership of Purley United Reformed Church. Russell Furley-Smith referred to the different faith journeys that each of us had undertaken which had brought us to the point of making this commitment now. This month I have been asked to share some of the experiences which have steered me to Purley URC.
To begin at the beginning (as the King said gravely) I was born in Epsom District Hospital on 26 January 1956. My earliest recollection is a view across a hospital ward to a large window, which I believe stems from the days between my birth and the hospital taking the momentous decision to allow my mother to take me home. Later that year I was christened at St Martin’s Anglican Church in Epsom. I’m afraid I have no memory of that.
It was in my primary school years that my parents decided to move up the road from St Mary’s parish church to Ewell Congregational Church. I then joined the 13th Mid-Surrey Life Boys. My proudest moment of that was being part of the team that beat the previously invincible Worcester Park in the final of the Mid-Surrey handball competition. To mark my simultaneous progression through Sunday school the church gave me a copy of the New English Bible New Testament. This was the first time I took possession of a Bible I could actually understand.
In December 1968 we moved to Seaford where (in 1970) I became a junior member of Seaford and Blatchington Lawn Tennis Club. I have been a playing member there ever since. But whilst my principal out-of-school obsession was chasing little furry balls, it was in my early teens in Seaford that I had my life-defining meeting with God.
Thus it was that on arrival at Sheffield University my first big decision was to join the Free Church Society – an interesting melting pot comprising mainly Methodists and dissident Anglicans. Something told me that this was the time to sort out what I really thought about God. Over forty years later I’m still at it. There’s no substitute for dogged determination!
Our URC chaplain was Revd Ernest Marvin, minister of St Andrew’s URC in Upper Hanover Street where I first became a member of the URC in 1975. I kept in touch with him right up until his death in 2016.
On graduation I had to decide on a career. As both my parents had been Civil Servants the Civil Service was the obvious option. I joined the Inland Revenue in 1978 and transferred to the Department of Health and Social Security in 1979, initially in Sussex but later in Reading. Whilst in Sussex I was briefly secretary to the Seaford Council of Churches. My principal contribution was to object to a request from the local secondary school headmaster for us to pay for Bibles for his “A” Level religious education students. I upset the built-in Anglican majority but a similar request the following year, when I had safely moved to Berkshire, did result in a letter about education funding shortfalls being sent to Mrs Thatcher.
In Reading my next-door neighbours invited me to participate in various activities of our estate’s evangelical free church. This meant mainly midweek activities as my weekends were increasingly spent in Seaford supporting my older generation, particularly after my father died in 1986.
Around this time I began asking myself whether I was really called to a career in the Civil Service. Then the Spirit of God stepped in. A few months after I took up my first post in the Department of Health, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, reduced interest rates by one half of one percent. This prompted a young man who worked in a bank to make an unexpected offer to buy my house. I accepted with alacrity and went house hunting again. I found a very nice house in Cordrey Gardens in Coulsdon with four bedrooms – one for me, one for my mother, one for her sister and one for the cat. I moved in in March 1991. My new next-door neighbours turned out to be retired medical missionaries from the Presbyterian component of the URC. Hence I knew I was okay. My work was my calling and at weekends it was easy to motor down to Sussex to see my older generation and my friends at the tennis club. And, tennis commitments permitting, my mother and I went to church.
In over twenty years in Coulsdon I had never once attended a Sunday service at any local church. That changed after my mother died on 31 January 2012. Her funeral was on 14 February. I noted that I had never previously had so many cards on Valentine’s Day! Nevertheless, several months elapsed before I first turned up at Purley URC (on 16 September 2012). Leroy Reid greeted me at the door and showed me to a suitable pew which I continue to occupy to this day.