Ulster cleric comforts murder victim’s widow

Mark Russell
Mark Russell

A FORMER Co Armagh man who is chief executive of the Church Army in England is foremost in comforting the family of Alan Greaves, the Church of England lay reader and organist who died after an attack in Sheffield at Christmas.

Mark Russell, originally from Richhill, described Maureen, 63, and Alan Greaves, 68, as “a wonderful, Christian couple who served the deprived High Green estate area of Sheffield with true devotion”.

Mrs Greaves was in court yesterday to see two men stand accused of attacking her husband when he made his way to church for a midnight service on Christmas Eve. Ashley Foster, 21, and Jonathan Bowling, 22, were remanded in custody accused of murder when they appeared before magistrates in Sheffield.

Mr Greaves, a grandfather, died three days after he was attacked. At a service after her husband’s death, Mrs Greaves said she had wept over the “evil that has been done”.

She sat at the back of the court during the four-minute hearing. As she left court with Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, who is leading the murder inquiry, she said: “Justice will be done.”

Asked if her faith was helping her through this difficult time, she said: “Immensely. The support of the congregation and the police has been outstanding. I just want to pay tribute to all they’ve done, the sensitivity with which they’ve dealt with the case.”

Maureen is a Church Army evangelist, and Alan – a retired social worker – carried out voluntary work, supporting his wife of 40 years.

Mark said: “As well as being a talented Christian worker among the community, Alan was a marvellous musician. He was on his way to the Christmas Eve night service at St Saviour’s Church to play the organ and was set upon in what can only be described as recreational murder – so senseless and such a waste of a fine gentleman.”

Mark, 37, moved the headquarters of the Church Army from London to Sheffield in 2006 after which he really got to know Maureen Greaves, one of 300 full-time evangelists within the Church Army in England.

“She is a truly inspirational woman,” he said. “She and Alan were inseparable and wherever she went, he was almost sure to be there, backing her up. This murder is horrendous, but Maureen’s faith is rock-solid and she will use this truly awful experience to add another dimension to her ministry and bring the people she serves closer to God.”

Mark heard the news of the attack on father-of-four Alan while he was spending Christmas at the Richhill home of his mother Elizabeth. He broke the news of his death on Twitter, stating he was devastated. Alan was found lying on the pavement, about 300 metres from the church, by a pizza delivery man and died in hospital from serious head injuries.

Mark said: “Alan was a fundamental part of Maureen’s ministry. I knew him really well. If you look on the Church Army website, you’ll find videos of Maureen and in every scene you’ll see Alan in the background, playing instruments or talking to kids.”

Mark started off his ministry with the Methodist Church in Co Armagh. He read law at Queen’s University and was one of the youngest licensed local preachers in the Methodist Church in Ireland. For three years, he served as youth pastor of Lurgan Methodist Church.

He moved to the Church Army in London in 2000, was appointed chief executive six years later, and now carries the rank of captain.