John and Iris' Diamond Wedding 

JOHN  IRIS 12-201818th December 2018
Tony Mallion reports

A Gorleston couple who were part of the group who founded Cliff Park Community Church almost 20 years ago are celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary. John and Iris Stebbings met playing badminton at a church youth club in Woodford, London in 1956 with a Christmas wedding on December 20th two years later which Iris recalled was a freezing day but the bridesmaids still smiled!
Iris worked at a bank branch in the City of London while John was an apprentice at a chemical firm in Stratford on land which later became part of the Olympic Park. He had moved to work at the china department at Selfridge’s when the London Fire Brigade held a recruiting drive. John said his two years in the Territorial Army helped to get him into the fire service. Iris was used to this way of life as both her father and grandfather had been fire officers and it was the enthusiasm of John’s father in law which had encouraged him to pursue this
During his 12 years service the Torrey Canyon, one of the world’s first super tankers, ran aground off Cornwall in March 1967 creating the UK’s worst oil spillage all around the coast. “I was just promoted to leading fireman and led a crew of six. We had a convoy of 30 Green Goddesses which we took down to Cornwall. Sennen Cove was a real mess and I even had to bring in a helicopter to help the clean up”. He also recalled a major fire at the Carpenters Hall, a livery merchants building in the City of London where he and colleagues staged a dramatic rescue employing heavy ladder equipment to save the caretaker and his family
After the birth of their two children, Louise and Mark, Iris returned to work, this time with the Inland Revenue. When John left the fire service the couple decided to move to Belton, following Iris’ parents who had already settled in the village. John became an accountant with Birds Eye at Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. More recently they moved to Gorleston
Although they’d had no church connections since their teens, in 1984 the couple both became Christians and were baptised having been invited to attend Gorleston Baptist Church by their daughter and son in law
John said he had gone to a Billy Graham rally in London when he was young teenager and even ‘got up out of his seat’ when the famous evangelist made his appeal for people to make a commitment. “But I didn’t stick at it. Like the people of Israel it feels like I wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and then I found Jesus”
Iris said it was through the encouragement of their daughter and her husband they started questioning what was different about the Christians they were meeting at the church. “Once we started going to the church people embraced us and we really made friends”
They played an active part in church life including John serving as church secretary and an elder; and in 1999 were part of a group from the Baptist church which teamed up with St Andrew’s parish church to found Cliff Park Community Church where John served on the leadership team and continues to run courses and lead communion services; both of them run a house group and have been involved with Open the Book, taking Bible stories to school assemblies. “We know our life is filled with joy because of our family and church family – we’ve always had great support from our church family” said Iris. John added “You sometimes wonder how people without any faith really cope”
As well as their two children John and Iris have five grandchildren and two great grandchildren