On Friday of last week Sister Theresa Capel died peacefully and at a great age. She was one of the last members of the Church Army to have known its founder, Prebendary Wilson Carlile, a priest of the Diocese of London who had stepped outside the walls of the church where he was a curate to fan the rumour of God on the streets, and who had then returned to breathe new life into a City church as Rector of St Mary-at-Hill.
Theresa Capel embodied the spirit of the Church Army at its best. She had been a Chaplain at Strangeways Gaol and served at the Training College where Terry Waite told me she was regarded with awe and even a little fear. She was strenuous and unsentimental, and I knew her where she worked for most of her life, in a hostel for homeless women. She had no blood relatives but she had an enormous family of women, together with whom she made a home. It is a philosophy which gave way to a more developmental concept of hostel care, but there will always be a need for some people of a secure and loving shelter from the buffets of the world and this Theresa Capel built.
She was very clear-sighted about the perils which lie around us. I remember meeting her in a supermarket where, after a few words, she darted over to the checkout with a cry of “Oh no you don’t!” and extracted a bottle of gin from the basket of an alcoholic resident.