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Fire death minister planned own funeral

PUBLISHED: 12:43 16 June 2003 | UPDATED: 14:00 03 March 2010

TRIBUTES have been paid at the funeral of a Stowmarket clergyman who died in a car fire - a service he had planned himself in the days running up to his death.

TRIBUTES have been paid at the funeral of a Stowmarket clergyman who died in a car fire – a service he had planned himself in the days running up to his death.

Around 1,000 people gathered to commemorate the life of the Rev John Pugh, minister of the United Reformed Church (URC) in the town, who died earlier this month in an apparent suicide.

A spokesman for the URC today confirmed Mr Pugh had left details about the service he wanted in the days before the incident.

The 54-year-old died in his blazing car, which was parked outside his home, just days after he was arrested over allegations that he had indecently assaulted a boy in the late 1980s - claims he had vehemently denied.

He was released on police bail without charge.

His coffin, adorned with white flowers, was carried into the Temple Road church followed by his wife Diane, son Barnabas, 17, who suffered burns trying to free his father from the fire, daughter Rebecca, who is in her early 20s, and other family members.

The Rev Elizabeth Caswell, moderator of the eastern synod of the URC, described Mr Pugh as quick-witted, warm-hearted, generous, forgiving, and loved by the community.

She said during the service: "Twenty-two-and-a-half years have been marked by diligent caring work for church, for community, and for the Boys' Brigade."

Mr Pugh had a long-association both nationally and locally with the Boys' Brigade, whose musicians played the last post at the end of the service.

He found time to support and remember everybody, she said, and had been a chairman of governors at three schools where he was a popular leader of assemblies, and involved with the URC on a national level.

She said: "He worked pretty well non-stop, except for the sacred space of the family meal time. He made sacrifices and did not complain. No wonder he never had time to learn his lines for the panto!"

Reflecting on Mr Pugh's recent troubles, she said he had found it difficult to accept help from others.

The said: "Even in darkness John's faith held firm.

"John couldn't hear what his friends were saying. But he ran for protection to Jesus, his life-long friend.

"In the knowledge of his safe arrival at the Father's house our anger and grief can be assuaged."

An identical service took place simultaneously at Mr Pugh's first church and where he was ordained in Mold Green, Huddersfield, West Yorks.

The Suffolk service was attended by the Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, a representative of the Bishop of Dunwich, and national representatives from the URC.

Mourners filled the seats of the church, while others stood at the back of the room and in the foyer.

Mrs Pugh has vowed to clear her husband's name.

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