Tribute to the Ven Sue Pinnington MBE

Ven Sue Pinnington MBE 1966-2021 RIP

Last week my Training Incumbent and dear friend Sue Pinnington died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 55. She was such a huge influence in my life it is almost impossible to imagine she is gone. No words are really adequate to describe how much she meant to me but I will share here some things she has taught me. Her legacy will live on through the many people whose lives she touched.

Rest eternal grant unto her O Lord and let light perpetual shine upon her. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

1. Let love be your motivation

Love guided everything Sue did. She was tough, she was direct, but everything she did she did out of love. It was a very Christlike love – never soppy but fierce and dependable. Once you were under her care, she would do anything to protect you. She described herself as a training incumbent as the mother of dragons!

2. Take what you do seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously

This is what Sue told me when I started working with her as a curate – we take what we do seriously but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. She encouraged people not to think too highly of themselves but she had very high standards about our ministry. She couldn’t abide sloppiness, divine service is in the service of the Lord – it should be done very well. But the wonderful thing was, she always ensured we had fun doing it. Reflecting on my time with Sue I spoke to our colleague Rev’d Margaret Lee. Margaret was non-stipendiary, she said she wouldn’t have stayed working with Sue unless she was enjoying herself – and what a lot of fun we had together, calling ourselves the Gilpin Girls (after Bernard Gilpin, the inspirational former Rector of Houghton-le-Spring).

3. Deal with conflict immediately

This was one of the most useful things I learnt from Sue in ministry. If an issue was arising, if someone came and said ‘so and so is saying this…’ Sue would immediately get on the phone to the person involved and resolve the situation as quickly as possible. She was never afraid to have difficult conversations and to say things as they are. This is something I now try to do – I’m nowhere near as good at this as Sue was though!

4. Stay calm in a crisis

Sue was the most amazing person to contact when you were in a crisis. She remained calm and actually dealt with the issues straight away. It is what made her an excellent Archdeacon. She was at her best in a crisis, dealing with a big problem with her characteristic calm and common sense. Once Sue was involved, you breathed a sigh of relief.

5. Learn from your mistakes

Sue always made it clear to me that it was ok to make mistakes – that is part of being human. But in her book, it was not ok to make the same mistakes over and over again. She would say to me, ‘ok, what went wrong? This is a learning opportunity’. Mistakes are learning opportunities and they help to make us better people.

I could probably write a lot more about what Sue taught me. She was instrumental in making me the priest and training incumbent I am today. In one of our last text conversations I thanked her for being my training incumbent and she replied: ‘Wow, what a great time we had and now you are taking on the mantle. Much to be thankful for. love Sx’

So much to be thankful for. I will miss her so much.

Sue was a fan of poetry and so I will share now this wonderful Maya Angelou poem which sums up something of what I would like to say:

Phenomenal Woman


Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
the palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.   
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.


  1. Thanks for writing this Bryony, and for the wonderful poem. I noticed next to the post your tribute to Bex Lewis, and of course your nana. Make sure you give yourself the space not just to appreciate these 3 phenomenal woman, but to mourn their loss as well. It’s no surprise that in following in their respective footsteps, you too are phenomenal. I am immensely proud to be one of the Gilpin Girls as well! We have a special bond made by a very special parish.

    Liked by 2 people

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