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1 - Introduction and Early Life

Alan Argent
Affiliation:
Trinity Congregational Church, Brixton
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Summary

In the years of austerity following the Second World War, and set against the lacklustre backcloth of the English churches, Elsie Chamberlain was a glittering star whose brilliance illuminated the most conservative of institutions. Her vibrant personality, her refreshing presence and her reassuring and authoritative voice lifted the hearts and lightened the load. This success was all the more remarkable because she was a woman, at a time when women in the churches were allowed to be seen but were not expected to be heard. Women had begun to raise their hopes given the frequent absence of men during the war years and Elsie's success was also remarkable because she belonged to a relatively small, unfashionable Protestant denomination, which wielded little influence on the world stage and, at least in part because of falling church membership, not much more at home. Her singular and unfussy contribution, blowing away the cobwebs and the dust of ages from the churches, with girlish glee and tireless energy, was a breath of fresh air, gratefully acknowledged by the common man and woman, in and out of the pew, and the intellectual alike.

She was a Congregationalist, both by upbringing and conviction, and she was also a minister. Although Elsie was tall and athletic, with a striking presence, she was hardly a glamorous figure, by later estimations of that term, choosing to dress in a plain and sober style, but nor could she be accounted a frump.

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Elsie Chamberlain
The Independent Life of a Woman Minister
, pp. 1 - 19
Publisher: Acumen Publishing
Print publication year: 2012

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