Memories of Stephen Hawking in my last post reminds me of a whole dimension of church life that could only happen in a city like Cambridge. There were often surprises in the pew!
From the very beginning professors from all over the world who were on sabbatical leave found a home with us. The first Winter a lone Australian minister called Noel Vose came. He had given a key-note address at the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) world congress in Toronto just months before. I was there way up in the stands in Maple Leaf Gardens and only saw him distantly on the screen. Goodness was it really him?! Such a humble and warm person, he threw himself into church life. He was there for Dorothy's healing (see earlier post). A deep friendship began which continued right through to his death in his nineties. Along the way he became President of the 58 million member BWA and visited Cambridge many times. And I visited him in Perth and taught in the seminary he had founded. But what is extraordinary to me is the way he made it plain to his biographer just how important his times and friendships in Cambridge were. We had a role in his story!
This privilege was repeated in different ways every year as professors (in different academic areas) came with their families for a year at a time. This phenomenon stretched us in providing hospitality but enriched us immeasurably. Personally it led to stimulating friendships which continued long after they had gone home and which sometimes developed into invitations to travel and preach overseas. When I became gravely ill in 1987 they were to play a very important role (maybe I shall get to that story eventually). And when I eventually taught in the US I had a rich network of friends who only thought warm thoughts of their times in Cambridge.
To be in other's stories for good is a privilege, isn't it? These dear friends are certainly in mine and the Cambridge church's story.