My Dad died of complications from Parkinson’s Disease on Monday evening at his home in Oakham, Rutland. I was about to leave Edmonton for Oakham in the hopes of spending a few last days with him, but I can’t find it in my heart to wish that he had waited a few more hours for me. He had been suffering for a long time and I would not have wished even one more hour of that on him. I’m glad that he’s now at rest.
Dad was one of five siblings, the children of George Edgar Chesterton and Dorothy Mary Hodkinson of Leicester, U.K. After leaving school he did his national service in the R.A.F. and then worked for some years as a commercial artist. He married Shirley Ann Taylor on May 19th 1957 and they had two children, Timothy Arthur in 1958 and Michael Charles in 1960.
My Dad studied at St. Aidan’s College, Birkenhead from 1963-65; he was ordained in Leicester in 1965 and served in a number of parishes in England and Canada. His longest appointment was as vicar at St. Leonard’s, Southminster, where he served from December 1969 to December 1975; it was in Southminster that he was first touched by the charismatic renewal which had a huge impact on his life and ministry.
Dad was a gifted pastoral evangelist and left a trail of newly committed Christians behind him. I know this, because I am one of them. It was on my Dad’s prompting that I gave my life to Christ on March 5th 1972; he was the one who first taught me to pray and read the Bible, he introduced me to small group fellowship, lent me countless helpful books about Christian living, and modelled evangelistic pastoral ministry for me. It is because of him that I am in ministry today, and although my ministry is far from being a carbon copy of his, I have no doubt that many of my deepest convictions about this calling came from him.
My Dad began to suffer significant pain from arthritis while still a relatively young man, and this was one of the factors in his decision to take early retirement at the age of 62. After his retirement he and my Mum moved to Oakham in Rutland, where he continued to have fruitful ministry leading worship and preaching in various parishes in interim situations, including St. Mary’s, Ketton, where he and my Mum made their church home in his last years.
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on”
‘”Yes”, says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them”‘ (Revelation 14:13 NIV).