Remembering David

David Stringer 2018

David and Maggie Stringer met while  working in the adult literacy field. Maggie was an officer at Dorset College and David was one of a research team appointed by the National  Institute of Adult Education.

She remembered noticing him, a tall, skinny geeky-looking fellow she said reminded her then of Crystal Tipps, a wild-haired  BBC cartoon character from the early 1970s.

Little did either of them know that after six weeks working together they would become engaged and would go on to spend their lives together in mutual love and shared ideals.

“ I was divorced,” Maggie explains, “with two boys, both of whom took to David  instantly.”

Married in the October in his late thirties, never having been married before or had children, he walked into an instant family and embraced the role with characteristic enthusiasm.

“David  wasn’t working when we got married and I  can remember coming home two hours late from my job to find him with his pinnie on and his sleeves rolled up, getting on with what had to be done. We both laughed. David maintained he learned so much about equality in that first year of our lives together.”

David did pick up another research job, and other opportunities followed, but the couple found themselves with a dilemma when he was considering working in Europe and Maggie was offered an HMI post. With Kevin, 17, and David, eight, it wasn’t practical to pursue either path.

“We gave a lot of thought to our shared beliefs which resulted in my leaving my job and the two of us going  to St John’s Theological College, financing ourselves.”

Maggie then taught while David carried on with his studies, refusing to become an Anglican priest which neither felt was the right path. Instead they moved to  Bollington, outside Macclesfield, where he became the Methodist minister for five years, allowing Maggie to continue her own theological studies in Birmingham. 

Various research opportunities presented themselves and other offers followed and the couple had their own ministerial work, Maggie in Marlow, and David in High Wycombe, but after five years they both felt the need for a change. 

“We wanted to get away from western culture and experience a third world country,” Maggie explains. “So we applied to the Methodist church. I was doing a doctorate in liberation theology, so South America was a first choice, but we offered to go to the Caribbean with the Methodist church because we didn’t think South America was an option.”

David and Maggie in the sun

 In an interview they were told people were needed in Europe, but they couldn’t face more of the world of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.

Within a year they were told that a married couple, theologians, were wanted in Bolivia. Part of the work was as chaplin to a school and there was another role, to support poor women.

Learning Spanish wasn’t hard for David, with his degree in linguistics, and on their six-week intensive course in  Spanish in Costa Rica, David supported Maggie to get up to speed.

Moving to Monteiro near Santa Cruz, working with very poor people, they were often required to travel huge distances mainly in a rattly little plane. They ran a number of courses, and Maggie is proud that the ecumenical course David set up in Santa Cruz, which was the first of its kind, is still running today. Maggie also completed her doctorate while working there.

Their work kept them in the region for seven years, and as their time there came to an end, the couple made plans to be based in Bristol, buying their house in Pembrokeshire which they loved and where they had very dear friends. “We longed for the sea as we had been landlocked for seven years and we wanted hills to remind us of the Andes mountains.”

Instead of Bristol, in 2001 they were sent to Sheffield. David took on the role of  superintendent minister  responsible for ten to 12 churches. While Maggie  became chaplain at the university and three churches. It was a massive workload and they felt that through their studies and their work, their focus had changed.

David and Maggie.

David had long been investigating the anomaly that Christianity and any other religion that promotes love can also promote war.

Maggie says: “We had so many great discussions about this incongruity which stayed with David all of his life. It is something I would like to take up and continue to explore.

“We owed much to the Methodists, but we found ourselves moving away from the more established churches.”

They found a new spiritual home in 2010 with the Society of Friends in St Davids where David worshipped until his death last year and which Maggie still attends. 

Maggie says of their life together that they shared the same interests, theologically, and academically. “It was a true meeting of minds. A true partnership and deep love. We never tried to change the other. Coming together was awesome and we had a fabulous marriage for 40 years.

“David was a man who was a thinker who used to say he discovered what love was all about when he met me. He said he didn’t realise that there was a little light still burning inside him until then.”

Maggie says that he spent his life trying to learn everything. Their meeting helped him to see life differently and, enhanced by their time in Bolivia with its liberation theology, they embraced a life where one is defined by how you live it.

 In December 2018, aged 76, David was advised of gall bladder problems and, during routine surgery, cancer was discovered.

Palliative treatment started in January 2019  but by March he wasn’t feeling very good.

“The  doctors and nurses were wonderful  ensuring  that David’s wishes to remain at home were made possible,” Maggie says. “Friends were always available and his men friends particularly came to chat and make models and generally keep his spirits up.”

A respite place was found at Scanda Vale for both of them for a few days but David became very unwell while there. While  friends set up a hospital bed and ensured everything would be ready for him, including equipment and extra care from Paul Sartori, David came home.

As David drifted in and out of consciousness in his last few days he was surrounded by laughter, love and light. “I told him how much we loved him and that I was being looked after,” Maggie says. “I told him he could let go and have a lovely long sleep.

“In his last few months he had discussed his funeral with his friends and he had  put together what he wanted as a celebration of his life. Clive Lewis, David Leighton, Richard Goswell , Brian Jackson, and David and Margarete Hawkes all played a part. He was accompanied all the way.”

David  died on the 24 June 2019.

“We believed that life is now and it’s a miracle. The  energy between people is what God is. I don’t hold with any  devil or a god up in the sky.”

Looking forward? “That is a denial of the beauty of your own life. Institutional religions limit our experience… keeping god in some constrained way is a denial of life and represses the incredible power of love.

“I am not expecting  to meet David again… that is a fantasy… We  are here and now and we have all been part of the miracle of life. I am not  really bothered what might come after death. The awesomeness of now is enough.”

Kitty Parsons

Kitty has forgotten how long she has been here now but she loves Pembrokeshire for its beauty and it's people. She spends her time searching out stories for, swimming in the sea , drawing and painting as Snorkelfish and eating cake. She says " has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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