Former Magheragall minister is laid to rest after long illness

Canon Alex Cheevers
Canon Alex Cheevers

On Thursday August 28 the former minister of Magheragall Parish Church, Canon Alex Cheevers, was laid to rest.

Canon Cheevers passed away after a long illness and will be deeply missed by his former parishioners, friends and family.

The funeral service was held at Magherally Parish Church and was led by the Bishop of Down and Dromore, Harold Miller, who paid tribute to his friend and colleague.

Rev Miller spoke movingly but with humour about his friend, who, he revealed, had planned every last detail of his own funeral.

“When I dared broach the question: ‘Alex, have you thought of what you would like at your funeral service?’ the answers came freely, fully and, in a sense, finally,” he said. “There was no shadow of doubt. He had already thought about it.

“He called this occasion ‘The Order of Service for the Burial of the Dead’, and not simply a service of thanksgiving. Indeed, he prepared the Order of Service on the computer, with only the date and time to be added. He did not like funeral services being reduced to thanksgiving.”

Rev Miller spoke about the close bond Rev Cheevers had with his wife Maureen. “Alex was not just an individual,” he said. “He and Maureen worked together as one. They went to school together; the began to ‘go out together’ at 17. Almost without exception they saw each other at some time every day in their lives for the four years of their courtship. Then they got married.

“Alex would say that getting married to Maureen was the best decision he ever made in his life. Everything else flowed from their relationship together. When I first knew them, as curates together in St Nicholas Carrickfergus under Canon Bob Wright (indeed my first house was their house!) they were getting involved in an organization called Marriage Encounter, and I think they were the first couple I ever saw going up to communion together hand in hand.”

He continued: “Alex was also an individual. He was an incredibly gifted and able person, starting life as a butcher in Cookstown; involved in rally driving and autocross and taking part in the Circuit of Ireland as both a driver and a navigator; ordained into the ministry of the Church of Ireland in 1973 and ministering for 31 years; and in his retirement after 2004 achieving a degree in history with honours through the Open University, learning French, and getting a diploma in French because initially of his fascination with the French resistance, and his desire to be able to communicate to those who had been around during the Second World War. Or leading battlefield tours as a member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides in the latter years of his life, poignant not least in this year when we remember the beginning of the Great War.”

Rev Cheevers was well loved by everyone who knew him and Rev Miller remembers him as “a joyful encourager.”

He continued: “There were moments when Alex could be quite sentimental, but there were also moments when he could be quite strong, but everyone knew that he had their good at heart, and he was able quite unashamedly with both emotion and warmth, to convey the love of the Lord, and to let people know that he loved them, no matter what their issues or problems. He was a joyful encourager.”

Rev Miller concluded with what he imagined Rev Cheevers would want to tell everyone at his funeral: “I want them to know I’m with the Lord. I want them to know I loved them. I want them to know that everything I lived for was worth it. I want them to know that it really is true. I want them to love Jesus, trust Jesus, receive Jesus, speak about Jesus, live the life of Jesus. And nothing will separate us ever, in this life or the next, from his love. Alex is in the closer presence of the Lord. He might want to add: it was worth it to serve Jesus in this world, but it’s nothing in comparison to knowing him in eternity.”