Friday, September 20, 2019

An Akenfield Baptist

A couple of weeks ago a friend gave me a copy of 'Akenfield - Portrait of an English Village' (1969) by Ronald Blythe.  He said that I would be intrigued by its many village characters who tell their stories on its pages. Featuring a small Suffolk village in the 1960's it comprises direct speech monologues from forty-nine residents linked togther by the author's insights.

In the section 'God', we hear a deacon of the village Strict Baptist Chapel describe how he became a Christian (at a village tent mission) and his life in the church ever since. Warmly and positively he details how the chapel works and how making an open confession of Christ in baptism is essential.  He explains that the church chooses its pastor and needs to pay him as well as maintaining the church and manse.  At that time it had no pastor (because of the 'money problem').  However he reflects that twenty-five years before they had a full-time pastor and ran the church for just 3 shillings a week.

We could do this because the pastor was, well, a saint you might say. He was Akenfield. Ask anybody. Nobody ever did so much good or was so kind. A rich friend from Ipswich, a rare big businessman who wasn't one of us, gave him a car -this was when cars were rare in the village - and he never used it for his pleasure.  Only for others.  It was known as the 'hospital motor' because he used it to take patients and family to Ipswich and Melton hospitals.  It never mattered what time of day or night it was.  We don't quite know where this man came from.  Anyway, he stayed and cared for us, and none better.  He stayed thirty years and was one of us. 

What a tribute to an 'under-shepherd' of the Good Shepherd! I have been privileged to know a few saints like this - I hope you have too.

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