Obituary: Rev James (Jim) Roy, tireless minister who overcame his disability to serve and care for others
Born: 6 April, 1935, in Glasgow. Died: 9 May, 2012, in Stewarton, aged 77
Jim Roy, a retired minister of the Church of Scotland, has died following a recent series of strokes. Born in Glasgow to Henry and Isabella Roy, brother of Betty and twin brother of Henry, he was brought up in Carntyne. On leaving school, he worked in the office of a housing factor, then with the Gas Board, before moving to clerical work with the Co-op.
Converted as a teenager under the ministry of Rev Sydney Martin at a district bible class rally in Dennistoun, he became a life-long enthusiast for the work of Scripture Union and was keenly involved in summer mission. In his mid-twenties he sensed a call to the ministry and left work to study at Trinity College Glasgow. He was one of the “High Carntyne Ten” who entered the ministry at around the same time.
Jim’s first role in the ministry was at Crieff as deputy warden to the late evangelist, Rev DP Thomson. It was when she was up in Perthshire at a young peoples’ ski-ing weekend that Alma Douglas of Stewarton met Jim.
So concerned was “DP” for Jim’s well-being that when Jim announced his plans to marry Alma, “DP” travelled all the way to Stewarton to give Alma a gentle Thomson-esque grilling. He was to share in the conduct of their wedding service in St Columba’s Church Stewarton in 1968.
Jim and Alma were blessed with two sons, Douglas and Crawford. Happy, loving and faithful as this little family was, they did not have a fairytale life. He was struck down by cancer in his mid-thirties when Douglas was just over a year old and Alma was three months pregnant with Crawford, and life was to change forever.
On two occasions, Alma was told that Jim had only months to live. His fruitful and exciting first parish ministry at Mansfield, Kilwinning was to come to an end after only six years, having been ordained and inducted there in 1967.
They moved to the flat above Alma’s mother’s home in Stewarton and there followed a time of uncertainty and fluidity of employment. Jim was determined that he would fight his illness, cope with the loss to cancer of his right arm (and shoulder), see his toddler sons grow into maturity, and provide for them. He bought a little printing press and earned some money by plying his trade on that for a while.
After a few disappointing encounters with Church of Scotland vacancy committees, Jim eventually felt strong enough to become associate to the late Rev Tom Jarvie at Riccarton, Kilmarnock, where he produced their 150th anniversary magazine, completed his Open University BA degree, was secretary of the gospel outreach programme and part of the monthly Festival of Faith rallies.
Jim’s heart lay in parish ministry and so in 1978, when the opportunity arose to become minister of the new church extension charge at Irvine, Girdle Toll, he embraced it eagerly. With Alma’s enthusiastic support, Jim threw himself with a will into the work there, attracting 80 worshippers on the first Sunday.
With no storage space in the community hall, all the church equipment, visual aids, hymn books, hymn boards and offering plates were stored at the manse and loaded into the car each Sunday, with the two boys and often with Alma’s mother.
Jim was a kindly, generous and gregarious character who had a deep concern for the well-being of others. Blessed with an irrepressible sense of humour and a wonderful memory for jokes (he had a filing system for them), conversation was never dull with Jim around.
His bonhomie often masked a long-term affliction with anxiety-based depression. So severe did this affliction become that, with great sadness, he left his charge at Girdle Toll in 1982 and returned to live in Stewarton. He was gradually weaned back into providing pulpit supply and occasional ministry functions in various small Ayrshire congregations of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church of Scotland.
When the charge of a family friend at Bridge of Weir became vacant, Jim took on the locumship. Various locumships followed, along with interim moderatorships within the Presbytery of Irvine and Kilmarnock.
From 1991-2000 he was a chaplain at Irvine Central Hospital. Jim’s work for presbytery was legendary. Moderator from 1994-5, he was founder and editor of the presbytery’s Fountain magazine, a hard-working member of the mission and unity committee, unofficial presbytery photographer, presbytery prayer secretary and convener of its prayer seminars.
It took Jim’s death for many of his colleagues to realise the blessing that had come to them through his being released into a wider ministry, than one in a sole parish might have allowed.
For more than half his life, Jim had only one arm. He adapted and coped magnificently, undertaking amazing feats of engineering and DIY, quite literally “single-handedly”.
Among the tributes at Jim’s funeral service was the observation that the King James Version of Isaiah 40:11 speaks of God’s arm in the singular – and that, like the master whom he served so faithfully, Jim Roy had worked wonders with his single arm.
Jim is survived by his wife Alma, their sons Douglas and Crawford, three grandchildren and Jim’s twin brother Henry and sister Betty.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
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