Monday, July 6, 2020

Honesty about guidance 7)

Nothing happened for several weeks.  Meanwhile a church in the North of England had fallen vacant because its minister had become Area Superintendent for the North West area of Baptist churches. One of its previous ministers Peter Lorkin (who I had met when visiting his church about a student mission) was convinced that I would be a good fit there.  He wrote to friends at the church and suggested that I preach there. I remember a denominational leader once lamenting how few ministers God seemed to call to serve in the North of England. Certainly I had never thought of it.

I didn't expect much from this speculative prod.  In fact, the whole idea of becoming minister of Leamington Road Baptist Church, Blackburn seemed absurd.  This large church was the only Baptist church in this cathedral town of over 100,000 population and it inevitably contained a wide range of people. For us, it was set in a part of the country totally unknown with its own traditions and (sometimes strong) dialect.  It seemed the unlikeliest possibility.

But, to my surprise I received an invitation to preach in October.  My parents loaned us their van to travel up there to stay with the ultra formal secretary Frank Newell and his wife. After preaching at a full morning service, packed with children, we had lunch with them and afterwards he took the current Baptist Union Handbook he told me he was looking at the name of the next possible minister.  I guess he thought it was the kindest way of letting me know the score!

Yet, very strangely, as Carol and I continued to meet people later that day and I preached again in the evening we felt a very strong pull to this place.  We realized how unlikely it would be but half-hoped an encouraging follow-up letter would come.  But none came as the weeks passed.

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