Frances Whitehead was John Stott’s secretary and played a crucial role in his life. EN carries a slice of her upcoming biography
The staffing for John Stott’s global operation was modest, as was its office space.
Frances operated from a small office on the ground floor; Stott from his study-cum-sitting-room, on the second floor, in a flat built above the garage at the back of the Rectory. His small bedroom below doubled as a corridor for visitors, who would have to walk through it; and as an office for the study assistant, who had a desk – rescued from a skip – in one corner.
An engraving of Charles Simeon, striding through Cambridge with his umbrella under his arm, hung on the staircase. Simeon had become John Stott’s mentor as an expositor, and in recognition of that, John stated in his Will that he wanted the words of Simeon’s memorial plaque to be used in due course on his own headstone. Simeon referred to his team of two curates as the ‘happy triumvirate’. It was this term, gender notwithstanding, that John began to use for himself, Frances and the rolling list of study assistants.
Each Monday morning, the happy triumvirate would meet for breakfast in John’s flat. As well as catching up and praying for the week ahead, this would be the opportunity for John to share new ideas. Frances could recollect no occasion when anything was pushed through without prior discussion. John knew everything would depend on his team and would never move ahead without first making sure he had consensus in a happy, and not coerced, triumvirate.
John Stott’s Right Hand: The untold story of Frances Whitehead by J. E. M. Cameron (Piquant, ISBN 978 1 909 281 288) was launched at All Souls Church on September 21.