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A Tribute to John Pearce (1932-2017)

Posted by James Rushton, 5 Oct 2017

Jim Rushton pays tribute to John Pearce, former Chair of the Church Society Council, who died in September.

JOHN FREDERICK DILKE PEARCE, who died on September 28th, was a remarkable and distinctive minister in the Church of England.  His devotion to his calling, his wife and family, and to the wider issues in the Christian Church was exemplary.

Educated at Oxford, gaining B.A and M.A. degrees, he trained for the ministry at the prestigious Wescott House in Cambridge. He served two curacies in London Diocese before remaining in that diocese to work almost entirely in areas of social deprivation. Districts such as Homerton, Clapton Park, Hackney, Hackney Marsh and Limehouse were to be his, and his family’s, home for all but four years. The Bishop of London appointed him to a Prebendary of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1970 in recognition of his quality, and he was twice an Area Dean in London’s East End. Four contemporaries shared his distinctive Evangelical ministry in the East End and they were known as the East End Five. Each was significant both parochially and in the wider church. There were three areas where this was especially true of John.

In the early 80’s concern was felt that standards of preaching were in decline. John combined with Preb Dick Lucas and others in addressing this issue. As a result the Proclamation Trust was born. That trust has significant influence in the Christian world to this day, epitomised in the annual Evangelical Ministry Assembly.

John also served on the General Synod.  It was there, in the mid-1980’s, that I was fascinated by his knowledge and skill. He facilitated pre-synod meetings for those of a conservative evangelical outlook with a view to preparing for debates, The ordination of women to the priesthood was a major issue. When the decisive vote took place John could discern where the measure would pass or fall. The measure passed when a handful of lay people voted positively. For him it was a sad day.

John’s wider ministry involved the Church Society where he was a council member from 1977-1987, and Chair of the Council from 1979-86. It is the oldest, and most widely recognised, evangelical body in the Church of England. John came into its work when there were many differing agendas creating an identity crisis. He sought to steer the society with humility, grace and gentleness.  It was not an easy time and the vitality of Church Society today owes much to John’s steadfast work through those difficult years.

I have nothing but wonderful memories of John Pearce. He was always positive with a ready smile. There was never any hint of snobbishness or vainglory.  He had time for the least important, as my 18 year old daughter experienced in 1982 when she did a gap year working for Church Society. He was a devoted Anglican, committed to parish ministry, always valiant for the truth of the Gospel. He enjoyed his retirement years in Bury St. Edmunds from where he entered into glory. Thanks be to God.

James D Rushton, 5th October 2017


Notice from the family about the funeral arrangements

John went to be with his Lord at 3.25pm on Thursday 28 September 2017.  He was longing to go ‘Home’ and we, his family, are rejoicing that he finally ‘knows even as he is known’.

John’s funeral will be at St Mary’s Church, Honey Hill, Bury St Edmunds on 17 October 2017 at 1.30pm.  Angela and the family would love to welcome all those who knew and loved him to attend.  It will be followed by a short service of cremation for the family only, but all those who come are invited to stay for refreshments (if you are local and would like to help with these please contact St Mary’s Church who are generously co-ordinating it for us).  The family will return and would love to see as many as possible of those who have come after John’s cremation.

If you are travelling by car, details of Bury’s car parks can be found here:  https://www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/parking/parking/burystedmundscarparks.cfm

John has asked specifically that there be no wreaths, just simple bunches of flowers or donations to either St Mary’s Church of to OMF.  There will be a retiring collection at the church. If you would like to contribute flowers rather than money, Angela and the family suggest that contributions be given for arrangements to decorate the church be bought – perhaps by grouping together – to thank God for all that he has done through John’s life.  The flowers are being organised by Ruth Marple at St Mary’s Church so if you’d like to contact her by email: ruthmarple@btinternet.com letting her know how much you want to contribute, then sending a cheque made out to: St Mary’s Flower Team, including a note so that we know who they are from to St Mary’s Parish Office,  St Mary’s Church, Honey Hill, Bury St Edmunds IP33 1RT

This service is to be a celebration and thanksgiving of the resurrection to eternal life, there will be no memorial service later, and John has specifically requested that no mourning clothes be worn, so please no black.

We are trying to let as many people know about John’s death as possible, but are aware that some may be forgotten, so would ask whether you would be willing to pass this information on to others on our behalf.  Thank you.

Finally, last year Lis, John and Angela’s daughter, had the incredible privilege of spending a month of her sabbatical with them.  During that time she made some recordings of them talking about their life and ministry.  To compliment that, we would be really grateful if those who would like to would write their own memories or reflections could do so.  There will be sheets to do this at the funeral or if you would like to email them, please send them to the Church Society admin address and we will forward them to the family.

Jim Rushton is a Trustee of the Fellowship of Word and Spirit and a former member of the Church Society Council

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