A few months after my Ordination I was inducted to Leamington Road Baptist Church, Blackburn on September 2nd. 1972.
Being called to your first pastorate tests your faith and your motives in ministry. As I entered my last year in training there was much advice I could call on to ascertain God's leading. But two remarks particularly stayed in my mind. One was the ironical remark of an eminent Baptist minister, a Northerner, who said;' 'How strange it is that the Holy Spirit calls so many ministers to the South-East of England.' That challenged me as an absolute Southerner. I felt it would be unfaithful to limit the scope to the South and, indeed, coveted a church in the North for my first ministry.
A second valuable piece of advice came from my father. It concerned the emotion I should ideally feel when confronted by the right church. He said 'You should fall in love with it!' Well, I have now fallen in love twice in my life. The first time does not concern us here. But when Carol and I visited Leamington Road last October, for the first Sunday of your interregnum, we both fell in love with the church and tow. It was the Rev. Peter Lorkin who had suggested me as a pulpit-filler and that happy visit remained in our memories for a long time. At that stage the likelihood of my receiving an invitation to meet the deacons seemed remote. However, when in the Christmas post, I received an invitation to visit Blackburn again my excitement was considerable. After meeting the management committee I returned to Oxford exhilarated. Even though my experience of living north of Oxford was nil, and the scope of Leamington Road sent my knees trembling (and still does!) I prayed that this might be the right situation for Carol and me. In our devotions we prayed earnestly that God's will would be clear for us.
When I came on the weekend of January 29/30th 1972 there was little doubt in my mind. There was plenty of opportunity to meet man y of you on the Saturday evening and during the Sunday I had a strong conviction that God was leading me here. That conviction has never left us, and has been reinforced by other events. My prayer is that your step of faith as a church entrusting the pastoral oversight to a young man may be blessed as together we commit our future life to the Lord.
Though I wrote this statement down my developing speaking style already gave me freedom as I spoke. I know that the emotional engagement was high as was the gratitude to God and the humbling awareness that this was it. My first place for actual ministry! I was to write in block capitals: GOD HAS CALLED ME HERE TO SERVE FOR HIS GLORY. I had to remember that!