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Obituary: Prebendary John Frederick Dilke Pearce

13 October 2017

Mission and pastoral care: Prebendary John Pearce

Mission and pastoral care: Prebendary John Pearce

The Revd Dr Timothy Bradshaw writes:

PREBENDARY John Pearce, a highly respected Evangelical Angli­can pastor, went in quiet confidence to meet his beloved Lord on 28 Sep­tember, aged 85. He came to faith as a teenager in Lincolnshire and, after Oxford and National Service, as an Anglo-Catholic he trained for or­­din­ation at Westcott House.

He quickly moved to a definite biblically rooted Evangelicalism dur­­ing his first curacy, as he realised the vital need for personal conver­sion. Scripturally based preaching and mission were at his very core.

He married Angela, a soul friend, who had planned to go overseas in missionary work, but instead went in mission to London. She was an equally strong personality and evan­gelist who led many to Christ in their joint work.

John became Vicar of St Paul’s, Homerton, in east London, in 1963, and built up a genuinely local church; he sought always to foster local leadership of many kinds. His guiding star in missionary method was Hudson Taylor, the missionary to China, who committed newly planted churches to local indigen­ous leadership. John sought to maintain this principle throughout his ministry of preaching personal conversion to Christ crucified and risen.

St Paul’s resounded to the great Evangelical hymns, but also to a teen service with full drumkit and gui­tars, late on a Sunday evening. This was “new frontiers” a long time be­­fore today’s version.

He was twice appointed Rural Dean. John was a loyal and effective Anglican.

John worked successfully to plant a church in the GLC Kingsmead Estate, finding a partner in the local council. This was mis­sion and pastoral care in the most deprived borough in England. The Kings­mead church founded the first tenants’ association on that sink estate. The work of Christ was seen at many levels and dimensions of life.

His Catholic background proved evangelical in terms of spirituality, notably his implementation of re­­treats for quiet prayer and teaching, away from the pressures of inner-city life. He was instrumental in founding the Community of the Word of God, a small group, com­mitted to Christian life, worship, and fellowship in the parish. Pastorally, John was always of aware of the need to encourage local people, and several were ordained, includ­ing the first black woman.

The Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Trevor Huddleston, asked John to take pastoral charge of a large neigh­­bouring Anglo-Catholic church, All Souls’, Clapton. The church was down to its last six elderly ladies, all of the deepest spirituality. John became Priest-in-Charge, donned his Catholic vest­ments at the 7 a. m. daily eucharists, and the con­gregation built up, Catholic and Evangelical growing together.

But the fabric of this huge Anglo-Catholic church was crumbling and dangerous. John and the team planned to knock it down, sell some of the land for housing, and, with the cash, build a new, slimmer church. This happened in the form of what is now All Souls and the Risen Christ. The Hackney Marsh Team was formed, centred on St Barnabas’s, and St Paul’s closed.

On leaving his ministry in Hack­ney in 1985, he went to minister to the wealthy at St Simon Zelotes in Chelsea. His final parish was St Anne’s, Limehouse, where he con­ceived a plan for St Peter’s Barge at the heart of the Docklands develop­ment.

John was amazingly active in initiatives other than his packed parish ministry. A founder and council member of Reform, he chaired the Church Society and Latimer House, and was an active General Synod member. He was on the Council of both Chichester Theo­logical College and Oak Hill, and helped found the Proclamation Trust. While at Homerton, he founded a lay training course, the East London Institute for Chris­tian Studies, and also the Stepney Action Research Project.

He retired to Bury St Edmunds, and is survived by Angela and their children, Mark, Elisabeth, Stephen, and Paul.

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