Rev. Howard John Celebrates 70 Years in Ordained Ministry

70 Years Ago

on 22nd July 1953

HOWARD JOHN
(South Wales Baptist College, Cardiff)

was Ordained to the Christian Ministry
and inducted to the Pastorate of Usk and Llangibby Churches.

(Details and photograph taken from Howard’s orginal Order of Service.)

My father was my minister Rev James Howard John was a Baptist minister in South Wales and the son of a notable Welsh divine, Parch Levi John. When I was born Dad had already ministered in Tonypandy, then Castleton, where I was born, and Mountain Ash where I went to school.

When he received new members into the church, it was his practice to tell them what was expected of them, then give them what they called, ‘The Right Hand of Fellowship’ and finally he gave them a motto. I was twelve when he admitted me into membership, and the motto he gave me was a verse from Hebrews: Run with patience the race that is set before you, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

As a young lad I thought of running a race in terms of a sprint, I was a bit impatient, but as time went on I came to realise that living the Christian life was more like running a marathon – needing the quality of endurance. However, looking back at that event 83 years ago, I now realise that in fact it was neither a sprint nor a marathon, but a relay race that I was entering.

When, 70 years ago, I was ordained into the Ministry, I was soon to re-discover the same lesson, that ministry is a relay race. Our minister, Paul and I share this, that we are sons of the Manse, receiving the baton from fathers and others in our families and running our leg of a relay, then passing the baton on. You come to realise that your personal start and finish lines don ’t mark the beginning and end of the race, they are zones where you receive the baton and pass it on. You don’t have to complete everything, do it all yourself, worry about unfinished tasks, or win, you just have to play your part on the team to the best of your ability, realising that others following you will use your finishing line as their starting point.

Ministry, for me, took a number of forms, first with local pastorates in Usk and Porthcawl in South Wales, a Borstal Chaplaincy, a new development on a housing estate, training at Industrial Colleges at Luton and Coventry. Eventually joining the Chaplain’s Branch of the Royal Air Force and serving in Singapore, Borneo and the Far East, Germany, Cyprus and the Persian Gulf as well as training stations in the UK. There were many opportunities for ministry, such as co-founding a movement for children with intellectual disabilities in Singapore, running an Anglo-German society in Westphalia and organising welfare activities during the evacuation of Cyprus following the Turkish invasion.

An interest in broadcasting began in 1965 with my appointment as director of a Station Broadcasting Unit in Germany. This led to regular broadcasting on British Forces Broadcasting Service as a presenter of its daily topical magazine programme, and an appointment as BFBS Religious Broadcasting Producer for Cyprus and the Persian Gulf.

Back in the UK this continued with presenting programmes for BBC local radio in Stoke and Sheffield and Radio Hallam, presenting such as commentaries on the memorial service for HMS Sheffield and the Queen’s Jubilee Review of the Royal Air Force at RAF Finningley.

On retiring from the Royal Air Force, Radio Hallam offered me a staff appointment as Community Projects Organiser, with the task of developing the field of community broadcasting and social action. This was followed by a period on the staff of The British Sailors Society seafarers’ mission, then a post with the Mental Health Foundation, and Religious Affairs Advisor to Social Service Advertising.

However, the parish ministry was my first love, and 40 years ago I joined the ministerial ranks of the United Reformed Church and became minister of Cliff Town URC, Southend. This was followed by further ministries to a group of four churches in Derbyshire, and finally to Upperton, Eastbourne where I served as minister for ten years, and returned as Associate Minister in retirement.

Rev Howard John’s momentous celebration of 70 years in Ordained Ministry was recognized by the wider United Reformed church At the General Assembly (30 June – 3 July), celebrating the Jubilee ministers (those celebrating 50th, 60th and 70th anniversaries this year) in the special presentation. The ceremony and presentations can be seen online here: https://youtu.be/lJyuZZvw8NA.

Howard leads our morning service on Sunday July 23rd to celebrate the 70th anniversary of his Ordination, a truly remarkable achievement, and still preaching! https://youtu.be/Mjl7IGL1XGQf