The widow of a lay preacher who was fatally attacked on his way to a Christmas service has told mourners at his funeral of her determination “to turn aside from hatred, vengeance, unforgiveness and retaliation towards those who had killed him”.
Maureen Greaves told a packed St Saviour’s Church, near her home in High Green, Sheffield, about the love she shared with her husband, Alan – “a truly beautiful man”.
Hundreds of people listened to her eulogy to her late husband not only in St Saviour’s but also via video link in the equally full St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, 100 yards away.
Scores of wellwishers could not get into either church and stood in freezing temperatures outside, listening through loudspeakers to the many tributes to Mr Greaves.
The service took place just a few hundred yards from where Mr Greaves, 68, was attacked as he walked from his home to church on Christmas Eve.
The church organist and former social worker suffered severe head injuries in the assault and died three days later.
Mrs Greaves explained how her husband taught her years before about not “giving herself permission” to sulk and act badly after an argument.
“On that Christmas Day, when I sat beside Alan’s bruised and battered body, it was only natural that my thoughts would turn to the men who had so cruelly and brutally attacked him,” she said. “But even on that day, I heard Alan saying, ‘Maureen, don’t give yourself permission’.
“So I was determined to turn aside from hatred, vengeance, unforgiveness and retaliation towards those who had killed him.”
She told the congregation how they had expressed their love for each other on the morning before he was attacked. Mrs Greaves said: “Alan bought me my last bunch of flowers on Christmas Eve morning.
“When I went to thank Alan and give him a kiss, he said, ‘I love you so much Maureen, so much, and I’m so glad that I married you’.
“I answered with the same.”
Mrs Greaves described her husband’s 35 years as a social worker and of his love of music – from church choirs to karaoke. And she detailed the father of four’s deep religious faith.
“The hours that he spent before God shaped his character and made him the truly beautiful man that he was.”
Earlier, Mrs Greaves followed her husband’s wicker coffin as it was carried into church. She was supported by family, friends and church members.
There were no flowers in the hearse, although the lead mourner carried five red roses ahead of the four pallbearers.
Canon Simon Bessant, who led the service, told the congregation: “That such an event could happen in this community, on that of all nights, has shocked so many of us. I know many people feel very angry that such a gentle soul could be struck down with such senseless aggression.”
The vicar said Mr Greaves had been a reader in the Church of England for 36 years and had been married for 42 years.
He said: “I can simply find no better way to describe Alan than to say that he was a good man.
“Divine love and goodness shaped his whole life. A generous, overflowing love which he experienced for himself which he, in turn, lived out for others.”
Mr Greaves’s coffin was carried out of church after a blessing from the Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev Steven Croft.
• Two men have appeared in court charged with Mr Greaves’s murder. They are due in court again in April.