From 1st April, Michael Abbott will become Chairman of our Board of Trustees. We caught up with Michael to find out why he is excited to be taking on the role
How did you first get involved with Pilgrims’ Friend Society?
I have a long involvement with Dorothea Court (our housing scheme in Bedford), which was originally run by the Dorothea Trust. I started going there in 1996 to take the Sunday morning services and I loved it. In 2004, I was delighted to become a trustee but it became clear to me that the organisation was in urgent need of support. After much prayer, I was certain that handing over the Trust to Pilgrims’ Friend Society was the right thing to do and this took place in 2008. I then served as a trustee of Pilgrims’ Friend Society from 2008-2013, and again from 2019 until the present day.
What draws you to serving older people in this way?
For older people, our care homes and housing schemes present a real opportunity for fellowship and spiritual encouragement, especially if they are frail and can’t get to church. I have been very blessed through the older Christians I have met. For example, at Dorothea Court the main part had to close for refurbishment in 2004. Those who lived there had to find new homes, including one lady who was very nearly 100. You might have expected her to be sad to leave but her attitude was that God was sending her out into the world to witness to others. I was very encouraged by this. There was also a gentleman who moved to Dorothea Court having lost his wife to dementia. When I met him, he was very depressed. But through the fellowship he found living at Dorothea Court, his faith blossomed. The transformation was remarkable, you couldn’t have met a more joyful Christian, even when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
How do you view your role as Chairman?
I very much see myself as taking a supporting role for the organisation. Through the morning prayer times with staff, which have taken place online throughout the pandemic, I’ve gotten to know many of our organisation’s managers. It is clear to me that our homes and schemes are led by very godly Christians and I see myself and fellow trustees as having oversight of a very professional team. I am very grateful that Alan Copeman, the outgoing Chairman of the Board, has agreed to stay on as Vice Chairman. As an organisation, we owe him a great debt of thanks. He has always provided a very calm and clear leadership, central to which is prayer. I will very much value the support and guidance he will continue to provide. I will also be working closely with and drawing on the expertise of Chief Executive Stephen Hammersley.
In recent years, you’ve experienced testing times personally. How has your faith grown through these?
In 2015 I was involved in a serious car accident which shattered my femur and broke my wrist. I spent some months in a wheelchair and have ongoing discomfort. Then in early 2020, as part of a routine appointment, it was discovered that I had a blocked artery in my neck. There was a high chance this could lead to a stroke and two weeks later I had the surgery that most probably saved my life. In God’s providence, this was discovered just before the pandemic. Through these experiences, my dependence on the Lord and my ability to empathise with others facing suffering has deepened. I never asked, “Why is this happening to me?” I rather ask the question, “Lord, what purpose do you still have for me?”
Tell us a little bit about your life...
I am married to Vicky and we have two children and four grandchildren. Professionally, I was a Chartered Town Planner, with a responsibility for mineral extraction and waste management. In Bedfordshire, I was involved in what was then the largest landfill site in Europe, which has now been restored and is covered with trees and grass. For many years I have been a visiting preacher at local chapels and I also preach in the open air. I spend a lot of time in my garden, where I have a vegetable patch. Among my favourite flowers are tigridias, whose pretty blooms last only one day – very useful for sermon illustrations (Psalm 103:15-16)! I also enjoy photography, writing poetry and collecting stamps.
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