Eric Hatton steps down at Stourbridge

By Sue Farrow.

Eric Hatton

The Spiritualist movement’s best known church president has stepped down after almost fifty years in the hot seat.

At Stourbridge church’s annual general meeting on March 16, I watched from the back as members listened intently to Minister Eric Hatton, also Honorary President of the Spiritualists’ National Union, while he delivered his final presidential address. He urged members to preserve the highest possible standards of mediumship and philosophy in the future, adding that these things were crucial to the success and credibility of Spiritualism. His strongest and most passionate plea concerned the importance of maintaining “the harmony” of the church community.

Eric’s association with the church goes back to 1946, when, following the death of his much loved brother, his quest for survival evidence led him to attend a demonstration by Gordon Higginson. Not only did that demonstration provide Eric with evidence so outstanding that it would change the course of his life, it also marked the beginning of a deep friendship between the two men which was to last until Gordon’s passing in 1993.

Eric became a church member in 1948 and the rest is history. By 1949 he had become church secretary, and following a period as vice-president was unanimously elected president in 1963.

Under Eric’s leadership, carried out with the dedicated support of his late wife Heather, Stourbridge National Spiritualist Church became a beacon for Spiritualism, hosting the very best mediums and speakers.  Albert Best, Doris Collins, Doris Stokes, Robin Stevens, Sally Ferguson, Mary Duffy and  Gordon Higginson were among a plethora of outstanding mediums who graced its platform on a regular basis. That tradition of excellence continues today with visits from such gifted mediums as Gerard Smith, Eileen Davies, Robert Goodwin, Jackie Wright, John Conway, Andy Byng and others.

During his long presidency Eric has also overseen three major renovations and extensions to the church, which today is a warm, inviting and well-equipped space, frequently full to capacity. Over the past few years it has been my privilege to attend services at Stourbridge on numerous occasions and there is no doubt that a uniquely special atmosphere exists within it walls, due in significant measure to Eric’s devoted service over so many years. Even when 150 people are present he will move around the church greeting and speaking with each one individually, a gesture guaranteed to make them feel welcome and valued.

In recent years Eric has suffered several periods of severe ill health and has at times struggled valiantly to fulfil his many and varied commitments within the Spiritualist movement. I put it to him that it must have been a very difficult decision to give up the presidency of a church which has long been so closely identified with him that it is frequently referred to as “his” church.

“It has never been my church,” he told me. “I feel very sad about stepping down. I would have liked to be able to continue, not for the length of time I have been president, but because of my devotion to the church itself. However, I will continue to be involved and to assist our new president in any way I can.”

Laraine Killarney

So who is to take over from Eric? Members have elected Laraine Killarney, who has been one of Stourbridge’s two vice-presidents for the past four years. I asked her how she felt about following in Eric’s footsteps.

“I find this a sad occasion as – largely for health reasons — Eric is standing down as president,” she told me. “Our church is well known far and wide for its high standards of Spiritualism and the evidence it provides. Eric has been my mentor for the past four years and I am proud to follow in his footsteps as president. I cannot be another Eric but with all the help and training he has graciously passed on to me I will endeavour to keep the same excellent standards that he and Heather have achieved.”

Speaking at the close of the AGM, Laraine announced that Eric had been asked to accept the title of Honorary President in recognition of his long and outstanding service to the church. This was greeted with lengthy applause and an emotional standing ovation.

5 responses to “Eric Hatton steps down at Stourbridge

  1. jackie wright

    Eric and Heather have left Stourbridge with an enviable leagacy. Nobody can deny Eric his rest, he has given the best years of his life to Stourbridge and to Spiritualism. He has also ensured its safe keeping by handing the presidency to Laraine. Eric has been like a father to me and I am grateful to have had his wisdom to guide me. Enjoy your retirement Eric.

  2. May I just add my thoughts to the retirement of Eric Hatton at Stourbridge? Although I live 12,000 miles away, his reputation as a solid and tireless worker for Spiritualism reached this country many, many years ago, mainly through the pages of the earlier “PN.” I consider Eric to be one of the stalwarts of our philosophy, and a person who has shown tireless dedication to the dissemination of Spirit truths. The reputation he leaves behind him should serve as an example to us all. I wish you well in your retirement Eric.

  3. Freddie Giddings

    I have never been to Stourbridge Church and have only met Eric once. That was up at a Stewart Alexander and Friends weekend at Cober Hill. He did a lecture and spoke without notes for over an hour. I sat spellbound and when he was finished everybody present rose and gave him a standing ovation. During the ensuing tea break, I heard Stewart say, “I am glad I am not following that”. So my thoughts go out to Laraine Killarny. Eric is indeed a hard act to follow. It is not often that one can see pure goodness emanating from a person, but I can honestly say that is what I felt when I was all too briefly in his company.

  4. I have only ever met Eric a couple of times, in his church at Stourbridge and once in Banbury. He is the most unassuming, quiet and peaceful man I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, he seems to emanate a gentleness and loving disposition at all times, a beautiful soul. I wish him well in his retirement, and I am sure that Laraine will continue to carry on the legacy and good work that Eric and Heather achieved in that wonderful church in Stourbridge

  5. Paul Buckley

    It would be nice if the Church could record Eric’s oratations on Spiritualism and put it all on U-tube, we missed the chance with our Gordon……

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