Tributes to Norfolk Christian social action pioneer
Tributes have been paid to Norfolk Christian social action pioneer Theresa Cumbers, who was instrumental in the launch of the Magdalene Group and STEP in Norwich and Sharel in Beccles. Keith Morris reports.
Theresa died suddenly at home on March 26, aged 79 and although she had health issues, her death came as a great shock to her family and friends, said close friend and colleague Doreen Betts.
Doreen paid tribute saying: “I first met Theresa when we were serving as magistrates on the Norwich bench, however, my main contact with her was when we worked together for over ten years to establish the Magdalene Group a Christian charity in the city working with prostitutes. Theresa was the CEO and I was the Chair of Trustees.
“Theresa was one powerful lady. She was an entrepreneur, with a faith in God which was inspiring to those who knew her. Under her leadership the Magdalene Group became recognised as a model of excellence by the client group, volunteers, funders and many statutory agencies.
“The driving force in Theresa’s life was her God-given compassion and love for the working girls and the men who pimped them. She was a ‘hands on’ person and would go into the girls’ homes and show them how to clean, she would find furniture for them, replace worn out carpets, scrub floors and clean disgusting toilets, to show them God’s love. Theresa believed in them and supported them to restore their dignity and find hope for the future.
“Her life touched many people who are seen as hard to love. Her legacy is in the broken lives of those who found Jesus to be their Lord and Saviour. Although Theresa’s death brings sadness to many she is now living in the fullness of all she believed for and served so selflessly to share, the love of Christ with many who in the world’s eyes are unclean and untouchable,” said Doreen.
Theresa was born and raised in the East End of London. She was the youngest of nine children and experienced first-hand the problems of poverty from a young age, never forgetting the love and support network found in her family and her East End community.
Theresa trained in secretarial and business administration skills and worked for an international publishing company. In 1983 she experienced great pain and sadness when her husband John was killed in a road traffic accident, leaving her to raise two young children, Estelle was then 11 years old and Benjamin was 8.
As well as her key role in the Magdalene Group, Theresa was a founder member/trustee of ‘Beyond the Streets’ (National Christian Alliance on Prostitution) and latterly Christian charities STEP Norwich and Sharel community hub in Beccles.
Since her retirement in March 2006 Theresa also started to write her first book. Low Cost – High Price, published in 2010, written in the hopes of changing people’s perception of those working in the sex industry, mainly those who work on the streets – her book tells of the heartache and successes of women involved in the lifestyle and some success stories.
A private burial will take place with a Thanksgiving Service at a later date.
Read some of our previous stories about Theresa.
Pictured above is Theresa Cumbers. Picture by Keith Morris.
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