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.