Until we meet – in Immanuel’s land

Cragg Bishop Kenneth(1)With apologies to anyone who is interested enough to be following this blog, for my silence since July; I had been hoping to follow up on the last one sooner but that will have to wait a little longer.

I visited Bishop Kenneth Cragg three times this year, the last time early in October. He has been an inspiration to me since I was 20, when my father introduced me to him. I was considering changing from my Durham General Arts degree to Arabic, perceiving then my calling from God to engage in both urban mission and with the world of Islam. I didn’t change my degree, which was just as well as I am no linguist, and I found it hard to give academic study the priority that I no doubt should have done. But I was at least able to combine the two aspects of my calling in the choice of a curacy, inner-city Newcastle-on-Tyne with a growing Bangladeshi population. Five years there was followed by eleven years as pastor/ vicar in a Durham mining parish, with a growing regional concern for Gospel proclamation. Involvement in both employment issues and evangelism kept my busy, until it was time to focus on learning more of the Muslim world – which God enabled me to do by sending me to the Sultanate of Oman for three years, a hectic ex-pat ministry (mainly South Asians) but in what has to be one of the most positive examplars of Islam. And, re-connecting with Bishop Cragg who gave me regular encouragement in understanding how as a minister of the gospel, I should understand the Qur’an.

23 years now, here in south London. The world has changed much, as has the U.K. Some aspects of ministry remain the same. I still enjoy teaching the Gospel to teenagers with no previous understanding – the parish still runs an open youth-club and a half-dozen attend a youth Alpha course, and several hundred ex-members will soon under God, wake up and come to the excellent service we call ignition, aimed at the 15-30’s age-group. And as previous blogs describe, the parish now has fast-growing South Asian communities, mainly Muslim.

Sadly, I was unable to travel to Ascott-under-Wychwood, near Oxford for Bishop Cragg’s funeral at the end of November; I was undergoing cataract operations, the excellent Moorfields eye-hospital are slowing down the effects of glaucoma. His body is buried there with that of his wife.

I am hoping that a thanksgiving service for +Kenneth’s life and witness will be organised one day soon, perhaps for February – celebrating his birth in 1913. As well as an actual service, perhaps a ‘virtual’ one, enabling more from around the world to publicly thank God for one of his saints, now in Immanuel’s land? (ref: Pilgrim’s progress and Rutherford’s hymn: ‘The sands of time are sinking’).