This is a depiction of a charismatic, maternalistic and salubrious figure that exudes grace and equanimity, in harmony with faith and strong communal standing. Bishop Margaret French’s life traverses a number of social, political and economic hurdles, which have over time knitted together the very ethos that, binds her moral convictions, and shaped her enviable communal standing, as exemplified by her growing status across the world, guided by a shared belief that faith in the holy scripture in the bedrock worldly success. This conviction to faith and the underlying belief in God stems from the hereditary notions of goodness instilled in her by a paternalistic figure with strong religious and family values, crystallised by a myriad array of challenges including personal tragedies. This nexus between faith and social values stems from her early childhood, under the guiding hand of her paternal father, a deacon with a distinct passion for faith and strong family values. Bishop Margaret French’s grandfather, was a Bishop in the Church of England in Westmoreland, Jamaica; a pivotal figure that passed on the baton of faith and social values to her generation.
Independence was a key strand in the web of knowledge passed onto her, such as driving and painting, transposed in a boisterous manner, not in pursuit of utopian values but to strike the essential balance between worldly challenges and the hegemony of faith. This parental guidance was a catalyst in Bishop Margaret French’s ascendance to the higher echelons of faith, circumventing material prosperity for service to humanity under the guiding hand of God, notwithstanding the political and social challenges at the time. Thus, incongruous with the orthodox position, wealth was not the hallmark of her early child, but a divine pursuit of knowledge, a thirst that stems from her father. In fact, Bishop Margaret French recalls her father’s countless acts of generosity and goodness including the refusal to buy her ice cream without buying for all the children present. These are the tenets of Bishop Margaret French’s continued national and international charitable work, built by a paternalistic figure whose name echoes to this day.
This period of relative harmony, sweltering with moral and social values, was brought to an impromptu standstill at the dawn of her seventeenth birthday; a tragedy that remains unhealed to this day owing to a lack of counselling and social support. It is a tragedy postured in the cradle of civilisation, culminating in a “shaken trust in God.” The passing of Bishop Margaret French’s father shattered not only her career prospects but tore a massive hole in her faith in the holy scripture; rather ironic given her towering position in the Christian community today. Besides faith, her father wore the emblem of academic success, and supported her dream to be an actress. On his passing, the architecture that had sheltered her early life from the ills of society illuminated, culminating in an endless struggle for survival and belonging in an eerie unfamiliar world. This included the relinquishment of her academic endeavours to fill the financial void left behind. Unabashed, she kept the academic flame alive by embarking onto evening studies, after a full day of work; a token of her resilience.
Her benumbed faith in God was tested and later reawakened by a taxonomy of challenges that shaped her career trajectory, working for a monolithic institution such as the British Broadcasting Channel (BBC) and exposure to distressing events such as the Bosnian war, thereby highlighting the imperfections of man and the limits of reason. The qualities garnered from Bishop Margaret French’s humble beginnings were instrumental to her career successes, starting with a music career spurning nearly a decade. As a lead singer in a famous music band called ‘Sweet Ebonies’, she became accustomed to the intricacies of fame that included European tours, rubbing shoulders with political elites and music royalty, and material prosperity. This was accompanied by a successful career at the BBC, where she launched a solo song called ‘Your Love Is King’, a lynchpin for a successful solo career that followed under the brand name “Peaches.” This career path was a fulcrum in establishing normality following a challenging period marked by tragedy and turbulence. However, despite the challenges, Bishop Margaret French still held onto the essential values that underpin her faith in the Holy Scripture, including continued membership of Rhema Fellowship in Croydon, London. She took on a leadership role in the Church and slowly started to amalgamate the various pieces that had been shattered along with her faith in the sudden passing of her father.
In fact, Bishop Margaret French recalls the moderating influence of a Nigerian colleague that joined the BBC around that time, preaching to her at every interval and inviting her to “come to the Lord.” This was a common occurrence during her tenure at the BBC, both at the institution and even through normal people on the road; an invitation back to a spiritual realm that had galvanised her early childhood and shaped her moral position. It was also a period characterised by chronic back pain and other uncategorised illnesses, which the journey back to the spiritual realm helped to eliminate. At the request of the Nigerian colleague at the BBC, Bishop Margaret French attended a church service led by an American evangelist preacher named Morris Cerullo, who initiated an altar call, bidding for those in need of prayer to come forward. Her reluctance to come forward were greeted with revelations about her, including the illnesses and personal challenges, unknown to anyone and thereafter remarking that “I am going to send a fire of the holy spirit to get her.” Lo and behold, she saw a ball of fire rolling towards her, despite her attempts to cling to a corner of the Church. After regaining consciousness, she found herself rolling to the front of the Church, where the man of God prayed for her. This solitary event had an overwhelming impact on Bishop Margaret French’s life and her later ascendance to the higher echelons of faith, by not only banishing her chronic illnesses but also replenishing the latent spirituality in her.
In fact, a restoration of this canonical relationship with God paved the way for a vision to embark on a humanitarian mission to the heartland of a war tone country. At the behest of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Margaret French gathered financial contributions from colleagues at the BBC, and embarked on a seven day road trip to Bosnia, along with five Rhema Fellowship members, armed with nothing but clothing, medical aid, non-perishable food and an unyielding trust in God. The mission almost ended in catastrophe when the vehicle lost control, due to the heavy snow conditions on the mountain path, but they still persisted. On arrival to Bosnia, the passengers in the vehicle immediately ahead were massacred. At the checkpoint, the passengers in Bishop Margaret French’s vehicle were ordered to line up against a wall, a terrifying moment indeed, while their passports were forensically examined. Following an hour of sheer terror, they were permitted to enter what she termed “tantamount to the gates of hell”, greeted by a hauling disquiet. All male persons over the age of seven had been massacred, leaving women and infant children with physical and emotional scars behind. After a day with the people of Bosnia, they were handed sugar, the only prized possession they had, as a token of gratitude; a reminiscent of the saying that love knows no colour or creed. This left a lasting impact on Bishop Margaret French, serving as latitude for greater engagement with the Holy Scripture and a doorway to the higher reaches of faith.
The successful humanitarian mission produced substantial public attention including an interview with BBC Africa Radio and a column in the BBC Aerial Newspaper as well as the Jamaican Gleaner Newspaper. The influence on Bishop Margaret French’s music career was very profound, culminating in a sudden relinquishment of the material prosperity and instant gratification akin to the music industry, to a low-key status as a gospel music singer. It also paved way for her departure from Rhema Fellowship, whose leadership had not endorsed the humanitarian mission yet marvelled in its success, leading to a new pathway at “Christ is Alive Ministries.” It was a predominantly Ghanaian church, and as the only member of Caribbean descent in the congregation, it was a new but invaluable experience for a keen observer. She was instrumental in establishing the Church, by bringing new members and leading the praise and worship team, eventually taking up a senior position, despite opposition from some quarters. This period of enlightenment was greeted with the birth of her first child, Krystle ; a joyous figure penchant for spirituality and free from the subverting ideological conundrums that suffuse this realm. Indeed, the young Krystle accompanied Bishop Margaret French on her first official visit to Africa, an opportunity presented by a minister from Ivory Coast, where she ministered together with preaching in neighbouring Ghana. This constituted a moral compass for the rejuvenated Bishop, allowing her to crawl away from a mortifying void that had entombed her faith for over a decade, and thereafter embark on a lifetime of ministering and service to God.
She thereafter left ‘Christ is Alive’ and formed an independent prayer group in 1995. It was situated in a bedroom within her mother’s house, by literally moving the bed aside to create room for an ever growing group of keen worshippers. In most cases, people joined the prayer group after hearing the songs and praise emanating from a humble estate on Friday nights. This was the blueprint for Mount of Olives Ministries, hatched out of a home-based prayer group that outgrew its surroundings, leading to the formation a charitable body on 2nd June 1995 that remains a cornerstone of her success. Mount of Olives Ministries was formed following her ordainment to Pastorhood in early 1995, thereby leading the prayer group towards a new path that extends beyond immediate communities but the entire world. In fact, the Church prides itself on embracing diversity, community support, exceptionalism, and spreading the word of God, while disparaging pre-emptive adventurism and other deceitful and reactionary acts. An unquestioning trust in the Lord is the engine that drives the Mount of Olives Ministries buttressed by a dichotomous relationship between community support and spiritual progress, instilled by the Bishop Margaret French.
Bishop Margaret French’s intimacy with philanthropy can be traced back to the mid-1990s, working with the Salvation Army & Centrepoint Homeless Services to feed and support homeless people, normally until four in the morning. This vivid experience ultimately led to the establishment of a Ministry called “Feed My People” with a vision to provide food and drinks for the needy, not only in London but across the UK (for example in Hitchin) and around the world. In addition, the Church, led by the Bishop, established a youth club called “Ray of Hope” during that period, although later closing down due to administrative challenges; it was instrumental in steering young children away from social disharmony and free them from the manacles of crime. Despite scaling back in activity, Bishop Margaret French, under the auspices of Mount of Olives Ministries, continues to support a number of charities including Barnardo’s and the NSPCC, as well as prison ministering. Her support to children’s charities extends even to her home, a boisterous vivacity and sanctuary for children. After more than a decade of fostering, Bishop Margaret French has graced the lives of more than fifty children with maternal love, moral guidance, and instilled in them the essential pillars that have steered her towards this enlightened path. Derived from her personal experiences and shaped by an unquestioning trust in God, the essential values that underpin Mount of Olives Ministries have seen it thrive over the years, as a vehicle of moral guidance and spiritual progress.
The early years of Mount of Olives Ministries were rather testing, both for the Church and the Bishop. Her position at the higher echelons of the Christian community was questioned, even challenged, largely due to her gender. This was a period in which her second child, Malachi was born; transposing the pageantry of hope and unity into a collective cognition of better times. In fact, Malachi would grow up to charter the same hereditary course, ingrained with academic success and impeccable societal standing, and endowed with the essential qualities of singing and a resounding love for God. Thus, family was instrumental in keeping Bishop Margaret French abreast of her mission in life, at a time of increased austerity. For instance, she lived far from the Church, thus needing to carry equipment along with two young children every Sunday. This was compounded by financial challenges which culminated in a constant change of venues leading to the loss of several members along the way.
At the dawn of millennia, Mount of Olives Ministries started to grow and establish itself in England. At the height of its success, the Church’s pre-recorded sermons were televised on Sky Television (Wonderful Channel) and aired live on Voice of Africa Radio. In 2008, the Voice of Africa Radio reserved a slot for gospel music and teaching at Newham Town Hall, in the company of Ken Livingston (the former Mayor of London). This also included a column in BBC Africa News, along with a slew of invitations across the UK. Perhaps the biggest achievement during the early years of this century was her progression to the zenith of the Christian community, through an ordainment to the house of a Bishop on the 2nd February 2002. It is a culmination of years of service to the Christian community, the wider communities, personal trials and tribulation and an unyielding faith in God that is credited for her intractable rise to the top. These factors played a pivotal role in establishing Mount of Olives Ministries, as a progressive church that recognises the impact and role of technological developments, social progression and globalisation, while retaining the core values that underpin morality and spirituality. In fact, Bishop Margaret French prides herself on pragmatism, recognising that scripture should be interpreted in conjunction with social structures. This is not a call to cynicism, rather a candid approach to spreading the word of God in a modernistic manner.
In this century, Bishop Margaret French has qualified as a Counsellor and Minister has been instrumental in spreading the word of God around the world. She has preached at several churches predominantly in America, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Uganda and the UK, She is also has a relationship with Africa, stemming from her ministering in Ivory Coast, Ghana and Uganda. In fact, Bishop Margaret French has extended her ministry to Uganda orphanages and churches, a mark of her continued thirst for helping the children in need and offering spiritual guidance and the dissemination of the word of God to adults. Indeed, this is the beginning of a long affiliation with Uganda and other parts of Africa, where Mount of Olives Ministries is looking to extend a hand of love, hope and support.
Thus, Mount of Olives Ministries continues to hold yearly conventions, thanksgiving appreciation services, baptisms and excursions propelled by an abiding interest in spreading the word of God to every corner of this world. Through the all-encompassing role of Mount of Olives Ministries, continued counselling via online mediums and in person, local and international ministering and charitable work, Bishop Margaret French has sowed a seed of hope in many people, and for future generations to follow, thus continuing the legacy of her father and grandfather.
Befittingly, Bishop Margaret French’s message to today’s society is “to live by example, love, appreciate, be patient, and treasure the word of God.” It is a message with historical connotations and the moderating force of faith, resonating in both her children who remain on the trajectory to the higher echelons of spirituality and standing within the Christian community. It is these hereditary values, circulated through Mount of Olives Ministries that should shepherd future generations through the rough pastures of life.