LONDON: Funeral held for Revd John Stott
david at virtueonline.org
david at virtueonline.org
Fri Aug 12 10:57:44 EDT 2011
LONDON: Funeral held for Revd John Stott
August 8, 2011
The funeral of the Revd Dr John Stott has taken place in central London.
Family, friends and Church family attended the service at All Souls, Langham Place.
'Uncle John', as many called him, died aged 90 on 27th July.
He was one of the most renowned evangelical preachers of the 20th century.
His ministry took him abroad to at least twelve African countries, as well as South America, Eastern Europe, the USA and Canada, China, Croatia, Russia, Korea and Thailand.
Also an author, he wrote The Cross of Christ; thought of as a modern Christian classic.
Premier's political editor Martyn Eden worked with Dr Stott for nine years. He tells Alex Dibble how respects were paid this afternoon.
"Uncle Johnnie...a ten talent man...stories of whom will delight us through eternity"
Notes from a sunshine funeral
By Chris Sugden
August 8th, 2011
Others on this website have covered the main outlines of the funeral today of John Stott. I add a few notes and observations to add further colour.
This was of course a day of sadness and loss, particularly for some. You could hear the choke in the throat in some of those who paid tributes or gave readings.
But the overriding sense was of a gathering of friends, met to honour the grace of God in what His Honour David Turner described as "a ten talent man" who could see what others could not and also could know how to get there.
Walking up Regent Street in the sunshine to that familiar wedding cake frontal of the church you could see the queue already trailing down the steps of All Souls and along to Great Portland Street. By the time the doors were open at 1115 it was at least 100 yards long.
There was no sense of impatience. Animated conversations were going on all along the line - as others arrived they greeted friends along the queue. Some took quite a while to reach the end. One or two never did. In a thoughtful touch, the rector, Hugh Palmer, who led the service, walked down the queue greeting and welcoming everyone.
Once inside organ music filled the church as people found their seats, again some taking longer than others as old friends met up. One retired couple found themselves sitting in front of the organist at their wedding over three decades ago. Bishops were present from East and West Africa and Asia, including Archbishop John Sentamu, Bishops Michael Nazir Ali and Cyril Okorocha all former Langham Scholars as well as Bishops Michael Baughen and Timothy Dudley Smith. Some of the congregation had flown half-way around the world to attend.
The first tribute was from John Stott's niece and god-daughter Caroline Bowerman who told us he was known to them as "our very dear Uncle Johnnie" - adding a charming family-man side to his profile.
The Rev Toby Howarth, the newly appointed Secretary for Inter-religious affairs for the Church of England spoke movingly on behalf of the many "Study Asses" (assistants) who had worked with John Stott. He spoke of John's vision in setting up the All Souls International Fellowship to welcome international students at a time when insular Britain was often hostile to foreigners.
He retailed how Frances Whitehead likened working for John to driving a Mini down a country lane with a fire engine blaring immediately behind, and added that his own experience was like being in front of both on a bicycle.
He noted his own realization that the church in the Global South had John's heart when he travelled with him to India. John preached at one church, but they found that two others had announced he would be preaching at their churches as well on the same morning. Saying that they had come to serve, John left the first church after the end of the sermon and slipped across town to fill the other pulpits as well.
Toby 's "Thank you God for Uncle John" spoke for everyone there.
Judge David Turner, for twenty years a churchwarden at All Souls, spoke so well that some of us felt like applauding at the end. He began by recalling John's written instructions when he went to the College of St Barnabas in 2006 whose carers were present and were warmly thanked. "I do not wish to cling to life. I have a living hope of a yet a more wonderful life beyond death. I do not wish to be unnecessarily hindered from entering it." Today's funeral was "supremely an au revoir moment."
He spoke of John as a boy "terrorizing the Sunday School at All Souls with knives in his socks." The stories of how he did more than any other man to "forge a new landscape in British and Global Evangelicalism" will "delight us through eternity". So having been given only five minutes by Hugh Palmer, he did not start on them.
He noted that few ministers have devoted their whole lives to one congregation. His preaching was described by John Piper as "turning the words of Bible sentences into windows of glorious reality". "He trained us in thoughtful listening to Scripture. His Sunday sermons travelled the world and formed the core of his books. He was clearer on the Apostle Paul than Paul. He pioneered much, such as invitation services. And we loved it. He taught us personal holiness and social justice and that the church was supremely important. We were beneficiaries of his discipleship of the mind."
"A mere seagull it was not"
Judge Turner recalled one particular meeting he arrived at at All Souls having been dive-bombed by a seagull on his way to the church. He went into the meeting still wiping the considerable mess off his suit and muttering "wretched seagull." John responded: " A herring-gull or maybe a black-headed gull, but a mere seagull it was not. Dear brother, you have been judged for your ignorance." Cue laughter in the aisles.
He concluded by noting that John would have valued the outpouring of affection, and that today was not a day for detached objectivity. " Our debt to this great and good man is incalculable. We will not forget him."
Rev Dr Chris Wright had been asked by John to preach at his funeral and noted that this meant he would have to report to him one more time. He spoke of the nervousness with which new curates preaching in All Souls would see John shut his bible and fold his arms if he thought they were departing too far from their biblical texts.
He expounded John's two favourite verses: Galatians 6:14: "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" ; and John 14.21 " Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. "
"We both come to the cross and take up the cross. We are both Barabbas who escaped the cross and we are Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross. John Stott, one of his former study assistants had noted, did not die on July 27 2011. He died more than half a century ago when he surrendered to Christ. In John's life we saw Jesus - his rejection of wealth, his suspicion of popularity, his delight in all of God's creation."
Chris reminded us of Billy Graham's moving words: "One day you will hear that Billy Graham has died. Do not believe a word of it. I will be more alive than ever I was before. I will only have changed my address."
We sang "Glory to Jesus. Risen conquering Son" (with full orchestra) and after a final prayer the coffin was borne out into the London sunshine - the crematorium party left, and conversations in the great "friends reunited gathering" that it always was continued for as long as we wanted to and then some over lunch all around Oxford Street.
The following video is of Canon Dr. J.I. Packer preaching at a memorial service of the Rev. John R.W. Stott in Vancouver, BC.
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