May at our Animal Christian Concern – ACC Service Of Animal Blessing at Salisbury Cathedral in 1990
The Last Enemy To Be Overcome … Is Death (1 Corinthians 15 v 26)
It was with great sadness I had to report that my dear friend and colleague, May Tripp, the Founder of Animal Christian Concern in 1985, died on 22 November 2018, after a long battle with cancer. When her husband, Harry, asked me to do a Eulogy at the Service of Thanksgiving, my heart sank at the thought of having to talk in front of a large congregation about someone who had been such a huge influence in my life. Yet when May became ill, I somehow always knew that this was one of the things I should do and now it had been asked of me. This was perhaps one of the hardest things I have had to accomplish, but the thoughts came to me and, with much prayer support, I eventually managed to hold back the tears as I read them out!
May loved music and it came as no surprise that she had chosen lots of wonderful music for her own Funeral Service! As the hearse carriage drawn by two stunning black horses arrived at the church, we were led inside to stand at the back whilst an oboist exquisitely and movingly played Ennio Morricone’s ‘Gabriel’ – Theme From ‘The Mission’. Some of the congregation would recall that our oboist, Mark Jepson, had played this before at ACC Services and therein is quite a story: In 1996 Harry and May were driving through the gates of York Minster for one of our three Services there, when this beautiful music began to play. May was moved by the fact that we, as animal welfarists, were also on a ‘mission’ and she asked Mark to seek out the music for us. Since then Mark has played it at all of our Services.
The music then moved into the first hymn, our ACC theme, ‘All creatures of our God and King’ (from St Francis’ ‘Canticle of the Sun’), as May’s coffin was carried into church and we processed down the aisle. This aptly included the words, “Thou leadest home the child of God, and Christ our Lord the Way hath trod”. After the opening prayers we heard Isaiah 11 v 1-10 with its prophecy of a fallen creation restored to Peace and harmony in the awaited Messiah. As May had written in her article about our Canterbury Cathedral Service in 1991, “When by God’s chosen Word, Christ Jesus, the love of God reigns throughout the earth, then the earth – the WHOLE creation – will know and live that redemptive love and no creature, human or animal, will choose to reject it”.
The other hymns she had chosen were ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’, ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’, ‘O thou who camest from above’ and ‘We have a Gospel to proclaim’. And finally at the Committal the beautiful and touching Pie Jesu was played. This was May’s favourite. It was playing on the radio as she died and her Grandson, Stevie, used to sing it to her.
Although the following Eulogy includes a brief summary of the work of ACC, there is also on the right-hand side of the ‘About’ section of our ACC Facebook page, a timeline called ‘Milestones’, which lists some of the main highlights of each year.
The last time I stood here, at the front of this church, was 26 years ago when May brought me to rehearse the reading for our forthcoming Animal Welfare Service at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Leeds. This reading happened to be the one we’ve just heard from Romans 8 v 18-27, which speaks of creation’s suffering as it awaits “the manifestation of the children of God”. I can still see her standing there at the back, encouraging me to speak loud enough for her to hear; and to speak slowly, by sounding the last letter of every word, so as to allow time for my voice to travel back to her! Well May, I’ll do my best for you today!!
Harry, has asked me to talk now about when I first met May and about her work in founding and running her organisation, Animal Christian Concern.
Well, what can I say about someone who has had such a great influence on me – someone who was full of compassion, was deeply concerned with injustice and had a profound sympathy for animals, as well as for people?
Having heard about the plight of abused animals, I had joined various secular animal welfare societies and in the summer of 1985 I received a phone call from May, who was unknown to me at the time, inviting me to a coffee morning she had organised in aid of the Humane Research Trust.
I duly attended this event and met for the first time with May. She spoke with me of her concern about animal cruelty and the fact that there seemed to be no Christian voice to speak for them.
On 15 July 1985 a group of 10 of us met in May’s home and Animal Christian Concern or ACC (pronounced “Assisi” in honour of St Francis) was formed.
Just over a year later May had grown this small group to around 600 members and we were amongst 700 people attending our Inaugural Service at York Minster! Her steps to involve Christians in animal welfare were revolutionary: The Cathedral Service was the first of its kind and was described by the media as being a “breakthrough” in the Church. 28 major animal welfare groups were represented there.
By this time, May’s campaigning had become two-way:-
First, she campaigned tirelessly among other Christians for recognition of the sufferings of God’s animal creation;
And secondly, she spread the Word amongst secular animal welfarists to assure them of Christ’s love for all creatures.
May was inspired by St Francis of Assisi and was a humble, unassuming person, so ACC was based on simplicity. We had no premises, no salaries and no sophisticated equipment. Local supporters helped with the typing and with the mailing out of our quarterly newsletter.
Much of May’s work for ACC was done in the quiet of the early hours of the morning around 4.00 am. We worked in and when we could, amongst our own domestic responsibilities. In school holidays my own children would often happily join us in May’s office, occupying themselves and enjoying time spent with her adorable dogs, Ben and Tania. At lunch time they would ask for Harry to cook what they called ‘Harry chips’! May loved children and my own daughters still remember her warm nurturing nature. They still remember ‘Harry chips’ too!!
Campaigning for Christian animal welfare is harrowing work: Not only did May and the rest of us have to expose ourselves to the darkest truths about the horror of legal and commercial abuse of animals, we also had to endure indifference, opposition and ridicule. But May always believed our work to be grounded in the faith that Christ Jesus is Lord of the WHOLE creation and that we, made in His image, have an obligation to serve as its stewards.
Thank you for reading our work and following our blog; we appreciate you very much! We hope you are blessed by this article and will ‘like’ and share it with others. Please stay tuned for next week’s publication of Part Two. Many Blessings ~ Ros