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Fred Pratt Green (1903–2000)
Born 1903 at Roby, near Liverpool, England, the third child of Charles Green, a leather merchant, and Hannah, nèe Greenwood. The abbreviation Fred has been used by the author for his hymnwriting: his close family, and in particular his late wife Marjorie, used Derrick. Pratt was the name of a relative, who was a Methodist preacher. His father resigned from the office of Wesleyan Local Preacher because he could not accept current teaching about eternal damnation for unbelievers.
Green worshipped with his family at Childwall Parish Church: attended Huyton High School. The family moved to Wallasey, Cheshire, England where the young Green attended Claremount Road Wesleyan Church and Wallasey Grammar School, before moving on to Rydal, a Methodist boarding school at Colwyn Bay, North Wales. In his schooldays, he showed interest in becoming an architect, but in fact took employment in his father’s leather business. During the pastorate of Rev William Rushby at Claremount Road, and after hearing a sermon on John Masefield’s The Everlasting Mercy, he offered for the Wesleyan ministry about the time his friend Eric Thomas offered for the Anglican priesthood. The key to Fred’s eventual choice of Methodism was its open welcome to Holy Communion.
• Fred Pratt Green was sent to serve in 1924 in the Severn Valley Circuit
• From 1925 to 1928, he attended Didsbury Theological College. Green emerged from Didsbury convinced that fundamentalism is a grave misinterpretation of the Bible, that Christian unity, though seemingly unattainable, is an important goal, and that the Church must involve itself in social concerns.
• He served next in Filey Circuit and as chaplain to Hunmanby Hall Boarding School for Girls: in 1931, he married Londoner, Marjorie Dowsett, who taught French at the school.
• He moved on to Otley Circuit, living at Pool-in-Wharfedale.
• He was appointed to Bradford (Manningham) Circuit based at Girlington where he began writing plays. In 1935 he attended the World Congress of Faiths. Green later suffered a breakdown, leading to the need for three months’ rest.
• In 1939, as the Second World War broke out, he moved to the London (Ilford) Circuit based at Gants Hill, combining his ministerial duties with those of an air raid warden in an area about three miles from the Thames with its heavily bombed docks and major industrial sites: later the Greens became guardians to Elizabeth, the daughter of Revd Vincent Shepherd, a missionary hospitalised with leprosy in India after fleeing from the Japanese in Burma.
• In 1944, Green moved to London (Finsbury Park) Circuit, based at Grange Park: on a pastoral visit to a Sunday School member, he met Fallon Webb, a gentle agnostic poet, to begin a friendship which encouraged Fred’s poetry writing and lasted until Webb’s death.
• In 1947, he was appointed to the Dome, Brighton, in which concert hall the evening congregation often exceeded two thousand souls.
• In 1952 he moved to Shirley at the Southern edge of London and bordering Green Belt countryside.
• He was appointed in 1957 as Chairman of the York and Hull District of the Methodist Church.
• In 1964, he returned to the Circuit ministry in the London (Sutton) Circuit in charge of Trinity Church: in 1967 he was appointed to the working party planning Hymns and Songs, a supplement to The Methodist Hymn Book, a task which was to set-off his hymnwriting career coincident with his retirement to Norwich at the end of his distinguished itinerant ministry.
• Over two decades Pratt Green wrote around 300 hymns and songs which found their way across theological, denominational and national boundaries, his work gaining particularly wide use in the USA.
• A phone call from Lambeth Palace in 1977 advised Pratt Green of the inclusion of one of his hymns in the official order of service for the nationwide celebrations of the Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
• He was appointed in 1977 to co-edit an ecumenical collection for all-age worship Partners in Praise (London: Stainer & Bell and Chester House Publications, 1979)
• In 1982, Emory University (Atlanta) conferred upon Green an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters
• In 1984, he set up The Pratt Green Trust, a charitable body for the furtherance of hymnody and church music, principally funded by the royalties from his hymnwriting.
• In 1990, the Greens moved to Cromwell House Methodist Home for the Aged, Norwich, where Marjorie died in 1993. The empty chair was all too poignant at low-key celebrations of Derick’s ninetieth birthday.
• In 1995, Frederick Pratt Green was honoured by the Queen with the award of an MBE for services to hymnwriting.
• Fred died quietly in his sleep at Cromwell House on Sunday 22nd October 2000.
For a much fuller biography see pages 122 to 171 of Bernard Braley’s Hymnwriters 3 (London, Stainer & Bell, 1991)