Category Archives: John Mitchell

Obituary: John G Mitchell

John Mitchell, 1929-2015

John Mitchell, 1929-2015

Dad chose his friend and colleague Rev Wes Blakey to write his obituary for the Methodist Conference. The family is thankful to Wes for performing this service and for allowing us to publish it on the blog. I’ve done so today, because it would have been Dad’s 86th birthday.

JOHN GORDON MITCHELL was born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, on 3rd July 1929, the eldest of four children of John and Annie, and baptized in the Church of Scotland where he attended Sunday School and the Life Boys. In war-time he went with school friends to Salvation Army and played baritone and trombone in Junior Band and later went with one of his sisters to the Junior Christian Endeavour in Roxburgh Street Methodist Church. His time at the Methodist Church had a profound influence upon John, where he became a member of the Sunday School, Youth Fellowship, and Lance Corporal in the Boys Brigade leading a regular Bible Class in the latter. Here, the ministry of Rev Ivor Seeley was a huge influence upon the young John.

On John’s 14th birthday he left school and began work for meagre wages and long hours on a farm in Kilmalcolm, which left no time for church or much else. Two years later he returned home and eventually gained an engineering apprenticeship. He was able then to return to Roxburgh Street Church where he was immediately welcomed back and was active again in Youth Club, Youth Fellowship and became Sunday School Superintendent.

Following a call to preach he became Fully Accredited in 1949 and then went on to answer a call to ordained ministry and, when accepted in 1950, began his studies at Wesley College Headingley.

John’s love of sport continued through his 3 years of college, becoming the football team’s goalkeeper, and in 3rd year he was team captain and General Sports Secretary.

During his candidating process a friendship grew between John and Chris, who was a member at Ardgowan Methodist Church, Greenock but, as was the custom then, marriage had to wait until August 1956 after ordination. That began a strong and loving partnership of mutual support which enriched John’s ministry in every respect.

John served in North of Scotland Mission 1953-56; Haltwhistle 1956-62; Sunderland North 1962-68; Newcastle Mission 1968-73 ; Consett 1973-80. In the latter two he served as superintendent and in 1980 was appointed as Chairman of Newcastle upon Tyne District. During these years he held many District and Connexional roles ~ both Assistant Synod Secretary and then Synod Secretary; and both times of the Methodist Conference being held in Newcastle in his ministry he was very involved as Assistant Secretary then Chairman of the Arrangements Committee.

John and Chris’s daughters Anabel and Elspeth were both born in Haltwhistle, and ultimately they were to introduce sons-in-law John and Winston and then granddaughters Harriet and Cassie; he took great delight in them all, each adding a joyous dimension to his life.

Above all else, John was an excellent pastor, always approachable and, no matter how busy he was, he made time for people. He was blessed with an astonishingly good memory for names and details about people, and in any gathering – Church, Circuit or District – he consequently knew the people with whom he was meeting and could tell almost to the minute when some ministers were going to sneak out of Synod, thinking they had missed his eye. Sometimes a conversation with them in the following days would kindly remind them that he knew!

His preparation for meetings was immaculate, and always began with prepared devotions that were thoughtful, helpful and set the right spirit for that which lay ahead, many of which he recorded in his book First on The Agenda which inspired many of his peers and those he ‘took under his wing’. Throughout his ministry, his administration and business acumen enhanced each meeting and led the church wisely and well.

John’s leading of worship and preaching was inspirational and never skirted around thorny issues, even his rocking backwards and forwards on his toes and using some lesser known Scottish phrases, endeared him more to his congregations and made his words even more memorable. When he decided he would not lead public worship any longer he started to write his blog, where his pearls of wisdom and rich experiences continued to inspire.

Throughout all he was a great ecumenist, working well with church leaders to bring about better understanding and closer working between denominations. As a District Chairman he made a huge contribution to the Connexional scene in many ways, but always stressed he was a minister of the people and that was paramount.

A man of many parts, who loved and was loved by his family; respected and admired by his colleagues for his support, which was second to none, and his immense quiet wisdom.

Tidy to the last, he died on the last day of the quarter having finished his blog, the last post in a trilogy, between watching the Scottish and English Cup finals on TV the day before. He died on 31st May 2015 in the eighty-sixth year of his age and the sixty-second year of his ministry.

Wes Blakey, June 2015

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Back to the world

John Mitchell 1929-2015

John Mitchell 1929-2015

It is with great sadness that I have to tell you that John Mitchell, my father, died suddenly on 31st May. He had sent me his last blog post the previous day, the third in a trilogy on conversion, which I am now publishing below in his memory.

The regular reader of this blog will be alert to the fact that the last two editions have pondered over two of three aspects of Christian conversion. It follows this must be the third and final presentation of our chosen topic – a matter of relevance and significance in the undergirding of our evangelism. There are three conversions to a Christian man or woman’s life. First, to Christ, then to the Church and then back to the world. Or, put another way, there are three ways in which an alleged conversion may be incomplete and imperfect. This exercise introduces itself thus: a conversion is incomplete if it does not leave us with a sense of overwhelming responsibility for the world. The sisters and brothers we are bidden to strengthen and support are both outwith the church and within. A temptation for the church is for us to become a holy huddle, cosying up to one another for warmth. Yes! I know! I know! I have pleaded in the second post on this theme for us to create the warmth of a loving, caring fellowship. At the same time, a church must never become a closed shop, drawing its blinds to the world outside; lost in praise and prayer; connoisseurs of preaching and liturgy; busy congratulating itself on the excellence of its Christian experience and Christian fellowship. Although in recent years the church has accepted its responsibility to serve the present age, sadly in my view there are still some Christian folk who see the church’s sole role as securing the soul a space in heaven.

The name Bob Holman may be a familiar one to some if your newspaper is the Herald or the Guardian. There was a time when he regularly wrote for both those newspapers. Although not all of his readers always agreed with him, his columns were popular as they were stimulating and challenging. I may be wrong but I would credit him as an ardent, evangelical Christian by conviction, with a strong measure of socialism surging through his veins. What is more, he practised what he preached. He was a professor at Bath University, from which post he resigned to launch a community project among vulnerable residents in a deprived area of Bath. After ten years there, he and his wife moved to Easterhouse, a suburb of Glasgow with a reputation of deprivation and its accompanying social problems, and there he became associated in the social and community ministry of the pastor of the Baptist Church he attended. He not only worked in this greatly disadvantaged and much publicised community, he lived there, side by side with his neighbours, identifying with them, helping in their personal and family crises, supporting and encouraging them when they were in conflict with the authorities. And in between, he wrote to newspaper editors and politicians on matters of political concern or social injustice, championing the cause of the poor and inadequate.

I have on my shelves a book by Bob Holman entitled Ordinary Christians. He writes: For nearly fifty years, everywhere that I go God gives me friends, ordinary people with whom I feel comfortable, whom I care for and who care for me. The book tells the stories of twelve ordinary people who became Christians and shows that God still calls such people to serve Him. Like Bron, a converted agnostic, who, in spite of personal difficulties and disappointments, raised funds, supported and visited as a volunteer a ministry in El Salvador. Even in her fifties and in retirement she lived frugally and bought all her clothes from charity shops. She said: As a socialist I gave 10% of my salary, as an Anglican I gave 30%, when I became a Catholic I thought it should be all for the Lord. The stories of the others are similar, converts to Christianity, joining the church, sustained by the fellowship and following in the footsteps of the Lord, loving, caring and working for those who are among the world’s born-losers.’ Converted to new life; converted to serve; back to the world. A worthy response to the Good News of Jesus.

65 years a preacher

65 years a preacher

John Mitchell

3rd July 1929 – 31st May 2015

Rest in peace

A charge to keep I have: 65 years a preacher

David Jackson opens the celebration. On his right, Margaret Jackson. On his left John & Chris Mitchell; Steven and Ann Moore.

LtoR Margaret Jackson, David Jackson, John Mitchell, Chris Mitchell, Steven Moore, Ann Moore, Fiona Butcher (piano)

A slightly different type of post this week, writes the Blog Administrator. On Saturday 21st September, Paisley Methodist Church held a celebration to mark John’s 65 years as a preacher. The afternoon was led by David Jackson, Senior Circuit Steward, and included music, prayers and poetry starting with the Charles Wesley hymn quoted in this post’s title, A charge to keep I have, which was also sung at John’s ordination in 1956. Gifts were presented, a cake was cut and everyone enjoyed a delicious Faith Tea. Thanks are due to:

  • David Jackson for chairing the celebration
  • The Wesley Singers, led by Kathleen Pearson, for two musical interludes
  • Fiona Butcher for her piano recital and accompaniment
  • Cathie Cuthbertson for her poetry reading
  • Steven Moore (Barrhead) and Edith Johnson (Greenock) for delivering greetings in person
  • Members of the Church at Girvan, Liz Adams (Superintendent Minister) and David Easton (District Chair) for sending greetings
  • Margaret Dunsmore for the magnificent cake, and everyone else who provided food

Finally, last but certainly not least, a huge thank you to Alec Wilson who organised the event. It was brilliant and appreciated by all.