Monday, 8 August 2011

Au revoir, John Stott

I attended the blessed funeral of Rev Dr John Stott in London today at All Souls Langham Place, his home church for nearly 90 years. He prayed for All Souls daily for decades. The Archbishop of York, the second most senior Anglican Bishop attended, in the company of several other Anglican bishops, and former bishops. Some of those attending had flown longhaul to be there. Billy Graham sent a wreath and a message.

The service was prepared by John Stott himself.  I recall him saying that he had given precise directions for the music which continued for about an hour and a half, and engaged the organ, piano and a small brass band. He had chosen four famous hymns including "When I survey the wondrous cross", "Name of All Majesty" and "Crown Him with many crowns". I am sure he would have loved the congregational singing.

His coffin was placed close to the pulpit and was crowned with white lilies. His relative, Caroline, gave a touching family portrait of her "Uncle Johnnie" who was faithful in remembering every family birthday, and who so enjoyed her children. She made us laugh by telling us that he corrected her grammar, sometimes. He had also helped her, when she became a Christian believer.

Other speakers shared touching other memories which aroused a mixture of tears and laughter. Frances Whitehead, his secretary for so long read John 14: 15-24 in which Jesus assured his disciples that they will not be left as "orphans". Chris Wright gave a sermon saying that John Stott was not gone: he had just "changed address".

Finally, everyone stood as the coffin was borne aloft down the aisle of All Souls for the last time. People's eyes turned to follow it, many no doubt, saying in their hearts, "Farewell". As it passed out under the royal coat of arms, the happy strains of Handel's "Messiah" played, which John Stott had, no doubt, requested. At that moment, all seemed well.

This was not "Farewell" but merely "Au revoir".

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