I often post random thoughts and happenings (of very mixed value too!) but today I was thinking of Sidney. When I was in seminary in Oxford I was placed with a friend as interns at the Baptist Church in Cowley in order to learn about practical ministry. It was set alongside a shopping centre on a large housing estate which provided labour for the vast motor manufacturing plant on the east side of Oxford. Far from the dreaming spires! Sidney Crowe and his wife Ivy had been in ministry there nearly 30 years, and he retired after 31 years while I was there. So much of his life with these people!
What did my friend and I learn from Sidney? It seemed definitely nothing helpful about preaching!Even his best friends would agree that he was tediously predictable with a bucket load of mannerisms including his habit of adding the phrase 'and so on' to sentences. On one occasion he added it memorably: 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit and so on'. You can imagine what critical students made of that!
But what we did learn has stayed with me ever since. His people loved him and Ivy in such depths of relationship that they hung on every word he said to them because they treasured them as leaders and under-shepherds. At their leaving it was clear that his pastoral love and care stretched far beyond the church fellowship into the community of Cowley. A photographic display showed him involved in peace-making in an industrial dispute and taking a key role in community affairs. People lined up to testify to the ways they had been like Jesus to them at every turn of their lives Carol and I knew something of this in their wonderful support in a couple of miscarriages.
And you know what this means? I believe in improving preachers with all my heart and that continues to be my mission. But preaching must be put into perspective. Sidney showed me that pastoral care and community building are essential and average preaching can glow in its presence. And, conversely brilliant five star preaching without love and relationships may dazzle as communication but it has no long lasting glow with Christ's people.