02 November 2006

Canon Stuart R. Bell writes:

IT ISN’T that the Very Revd Bertie Lewis, who died on 3 April (Gazette, 13 April), was gifted which made him exceptional; for many clergy are gifted. It was the extent of those gifts which set him apart.

As a leader, he was inspiring, and attracted devoted loyalty. As a pastor, he was insightful, incisive, and compassionate. As a preacher, he could hold his congregation riveted, while piercing the heart and the conscience. As an evangelist, he was direct and exceptionally fruitful. As a musician, he played the organ and piano, sang, and conducted others. As one who cared for buildings, he repaired, restored, decorated, gilded, and built in five parishes in the St Davids diocese, besides undertaking extensive work on St Davids Cathedral during his time there as Dean. As an administrator, he left attention to detail as his hallmark.

There were elements of greatness in him — certainly great courage. His clear biblical convictions led him to be a founder-member of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Church in Wales. His policies in worship, liturgy, and lay leadership were radical and groundbreaking. Some of what he did and said generated criticism, but he never flinched from what he thought to be right, and subsequent success often vindicated him. His courage was costly and painful at times.

There was great passion in him, too. When change was happening extremely quickly through his ministry in St Michael’s, Aberystwyth, and his preaching was increasingly direct, he commented: "I want to have some people to greet me when I get to heaven." He was intent on winning souls to populate heaven.

It is said of some spiritual giants that not much grows in the shadow of the great oak tree. That was not true of Bertie Lewis. He gave plenty of opportunity to those around him to grow, both young colleagues in training, of whom he had a succession to nurture, and also lay people who were discovering gifts and ministries that he encouraged to the full. Before the current emphasis on collaborative ministry, he simply took seriously the "priesthood of all believers".


Two periods in his life were hugely significant. One was during his training in Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, in the mid-1950s, when his traditional Anglican Christianity became personal to him in a way that it had not been before. Later, in the mid-1980s, he invited Canon Michael Green to Aberystwyth, and in front of his eyes he saw someone being filled with the Holy Spirit and beginning to speak in tongues.

This led him to look for and receive a deepening work of the Holy Spirit in his own life. What had previously been occasional now became constant, and the spiritual work in which he was engaged accelerated, and led to substantial blessing upon him and the churches in the town.

But for Parkinson’s disease, which began to afflict him during his time as Dean, Bertie would have received further preferment. The progress of the disease limited his remaining ministry.

A large congregation, including four bishops and nearly 40 clergy, attended his funeral — a testimony to the affection and admiration of the many who would wish to pay tribute to his ministry, and to his supportive wife, Rayann.

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