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John Mockford
 
  John Mockford   John Mockford was perhaps the starting point for the crossBeaTs ministry.  Eddie Boyes, John Boyes and Eric Knowles had been converted through his early work at St Leonard's church, and Tony Mathias had been drawn into the fellowship.  

Despite the 'posh' accent, John's coming to Bootle from the South of England (Bromley, Kent), his strong character and his commitment to Christ and the Gospel soon made impressions on people not normally easy to impress.  It seemed there was 'something' special to this man. Or was it Someone?

Here is an extract from his memoirs, detailing his ministry from 1957, it includes some 'links' to other pages of further explanation.


Other information about the parish at that time can be gleaned from Keith Anderson's news letters.
 
 

THE STRETCHING OF FAITH'S MUSCLES (John Mockford)

In the summer of 1957 we responded to a call to go to Bootle, Liverpool to take charge of St. Leonard's. This was the first of three parishes the Simeon Trustees - a broad based evangelical set-up offered to us in our lifetime. Situated on the western end of the Merseyside docks, the largest boats of the Canadian Pacific Line of 25,000 tons or thereabouts, berthed in the Gladstone Dock . The overhead railway line terminated not far away in Seaforth. The area had suffered severe bombing in the War, and a small, almost temporary Church had been built to replace the large old Victorian one.

Outside ChurchThe Vicarage had most of the rooms being redecorated and the old fireplaces removed when we moved in: Angela was heavily pregnant with Peter. Our first visitor was a grey-faced Australian. Ted Prescott who at the door said 'The Missus has sent me to help you'. He looked a real rogue, but he had a heart of gold and fortunately we accepted his offer.

I was only 29 years old, and it must have seemed a risk to the Diocesan authorities to put such a young man in charge of a rundown dockside parish: at any rate, they kept an eye on us by sending senior clergy to visit every six months; dear old Canon Lindsay and Canon Gwyn Rogers who helped me to see problems in perspective. Angela, too, felt her youthfulness, being four years younger; and she kept her hair in a bun to give the impression of being older.

The Lord was very gracious in those years at St. Leonard's. He called some fine men and women to Himself and into his Church. There were stalwarts like Jim Webster, reliable and skilled as a Post Office engineer who was our treasurer and churchwarden: Fred Watson was another steady, cheerful character who became a churchwarden: Eric Knowles, converted on one of the missions, was a giant of a man with enormous muscles and a great heart of faith. He worked on the floor of the nearby English Electric factory as a shop steward. Reluctantly, as he grew as a Christian we had to relinquish him to the Diocese as a stewardship trainer, at which he was very good. Then there was Jock Watson our verger, and docker, who had a strong Christian character and a good sense of humour.

Many found the Lord through the practical help offered in decorating the Church Hall, and through the witness of our lives; some became outstanding church youth leaders, Boys Brigade officers and Guiders; such were the Cutlers, the Frosticks, the Healeys, the Hardings, the Lindsays and the Spencers. Their names are like a roll-call of the saints, and such they were, and still are today, in spite of various testings and trials.

One of the most amazing gospel stories was that of John Valentine, a timber salesman, converted partly through a pub argument about Christianity, and realising later how little he knew; then starting to come to Church and meeting the Lord; he went on later to a Gospel Mission at Bankhall where he heard a call to Nigeria to replace an old missionary, and out there he set up a Bible College and helped to begin a score or more Churches in the delta area. Angela loved this story of saving grace.

The other fruit of the Gospel that stood out in those years was the setting up of the Christian rock band called ''Crossbeats'' with the Boyes brothers John and Eddie, and Tony Matthias to the fore. It was the time of the Beatles, and the five lads in the band used and created songs in a similar style. The saintly Bishop of Liverpool. Dr. Clifford Martin loved them and supported them; and they have an impressive web-site to this day. The Gospel of Jesus and His redeeming love does not change, but the medium of expressing it has to.

A helper of real worth in those years was my Secretary, Daisy Scott (this is a thread which runs through my years of ministry, having fine women to help secretarially). She was a long-serving Guider, and helped set up the annual parish holidays at Dolgellauu in Central Wales, that were of real blessing in knitting the Christians together.

Another aspect of the Lord's goodness were the colleagues He sent to us in these years. First to come and live with us was Ian Bunting, a former Bromley Crusader. He worked on the docks as a plumber's mate, learning the hard way insights into the artisan's mind. Later, he returned as a curate, and married Mair. He went on to be the Vicar at Chester-le-Street and on the staff of Cranmer Hall, and to play a major role in evangelical understanding of new patterns of worship with the Alternative Service Book.

Team MinistryNext came Colin Bazley and his wife Barbara. They lived above us in the Vicarage and he was known for his speed in bounding down the stairs to chase boys misbehaving in the Church grounds. When there was a row in the Boy's Brigade over spiritual issues, some officers resigned, and he stepped in as Captain and held the company together. That was important as it was the strongest unit in the Church life; and it was indicative of his ability to accept challenges, as later shown in his years of service as Bishop of Chile.

The third colleague to join us was Keith Anderson and his dear wife Ruth. He went on to exercise a fruitful ministry in Burundi and in a Kenyan diocese, under Bishop Gitari setting up a Theology by Extension course. The above three I called the Three Musketeers, but nearer the end of our time in Bootle, Joe and Freda Kitts joined us; a man of great integrity, who had been a miner at St. Helens, and later had a fruitful pastoral ministry in a large American Church. Finally there was John Banner and Celia his wife; he bad an artisan background and she a very cultured one and backed him up superbly; they went on to an active ministry in Tunbridge Wells and at the healing centre at Burrswood.

Located in a very tough situation on dockside, where men were not considered to be men unless they had been inside, and mingling with dockers who had experienced a very hard past in the 30s, and who could be very intransigent as a consequence (one Cunarder ship was left in dry-dock too long and broke her back): we, the clergy, had to do some hard thinking and reading. Bishop Ted Whickham's book ''The Church and People in the Industrial City'' warned us of the gaps in the past. Professors Zweig's and Hoggart's books were of real help in understanding the artisan way of life. Roger Lloyd's book "The Church Artisan'' was stimulating, even if I disagreed with him, especially on artisan areas being worked out.

On the practical side, we received help from Simon Mahon, the local Member of Parliament: I went to him for help with a young single mother who was living in one room, running with damp. This proved fruitful, and new and better accommodation was found. Also I initiated and led a Churches unemployment march through the town to the Town Hall the unemployment rate was 9% at the time. It helped Simon Mahon to make a case for Bootle and led to the Giro Bank coming to that part of Merseyside.

So we were pioneers in more ways than one especially for the need for social action to arise out of the Gospel, some years ahead of the crucial evangelical conference at Keele. In time we built up lay visiting teams of over 50 in number preparing the way for missions and helping wider afield on new estates in the deanery. But the toughest challenge of all was the weekly dock gate open-air meeting pioneered by the Linacre Mission Ministers Jim Roxburgh (later Bishop of Barking) and John Hunter, a local Vicar, in his cloth cap. Even Festo Kivengere, the great African evangelist, when I took him to the meeting one week was nonplussed. Joe Kitts spoke one day to the dockers, saying 'his bitch looked after her pups better than they looked after their children'. I looked round for the nearest bolt-hole, but they took it on the chin, respecting I think his integrity as a man and a former miner.

Also there was a winsome open air artist at the dock gate meeting: he was a city missioner and a former chief designer in a Sheffield steel factory. He came home to lunch with me once, and insisted on painting Angela: after about six sessions or slightly more, the painting was finished. It is a wonderful painting and treasured today by my family. I learnt later that John Warr was his name, and that he was a Royal Academy artist.

The home front saw our family grow; not only was Peter born in December 1957 in the Maternity Hospital in Liverpool - husbands were not allowed in, so Angela had to cope on her own - but late in 1961 David was delivered at home, under the fine care of Dr.Webster, a local GP. Angela at one point told me to clear out so she could get on with it - but I did return to greet a very long-legged new born baby. Later I constructed a large sand pit in the garden for the boys to play in; we went on days off to the beaches beyond Formby up the coast, and to Southport. For holidays it was largely to families, as we were strapped for cash.

Sad to say in spite of articles written - one such in the Clifton Theological College Magazine, emphasising living the gospel, my fatherly role was negligible, and Angela carried the weight of bringing up the family. I had become something of a workaholic, and was leaving myself wide open to temptations with such an unbalanced life. And I had yet to learn the lesson that Rudyard Kipling put in his well known poem "If" - If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat these two impostors just the same (and a lot more he added) You'll be a Man, my son!'

Father and Mother Dolman visited us often, and they were a source of encouragement and sometimes hilarity. During one service George was in full flow in his preaching, exhorting everyone to become a member of the Mothers' Union (he meant Scripture Union) when suddenly his false teeth fell out quick as lightning his right hand went under the pulpit ledge, fielding the said object, and with one movement returned it to his mouth accompanied by silent guffaws amongst those of us who saw it all. Derek, Angela's brother, stayed too for some months in his gap year, working out what the Lord was calling him to do, and being his usual steady and calm self.

Of all the events we staged during our time in Bootle a large missionary exhibition called 'Open Door' stands out (more details). Many missionary societies contributed with their stands and guest speakers amongst those were Harry Sutton the General Secretary of the South American Missionary, and Brian de Saram, the CMS. Africa Secretary at that time, who was to play an influence in our lives later. It helped to turn all our minds to the wider world-wide mission field, and being so close to a great seaport, gave added strength to it. It is not surprising therefore that four of us ordained men, and our wives, went overseas. Despite large numbers attending the exhibition during the week we made quite a loss, having failed to charge any entry fee. The Church Mission to Jews made a profit on their similar efforts!

There is still more to tell of our time in Bootle. We received help from unexpected quarters: David Orman came from the City of London and Bromley Crusaders to live nearby; he walked down the notorious Marsh Lane in a bowler hat and carrying a rolled umbrella. Later, he adjusted, and played a major role in our 75th anniversary celebrations helping to produce a well-printed brochure; which formed a basis for a fine Diocesan effort a few years on, when he was then the Diocesan Secretary. Sadly, his lovely wife Ann died in the '80s, leaving him to look after three young children.

Another stalwart was the Church Army Captain Ernie Hopkins. He helped at Walton Jail not far away, and had a reputation with the prisoners for being un-connable. He was a very straight man (with a prominent beaky nose), and helped to keep me on the straight and narrow at the end of our time at Bootle. He could not make sense of our departing overseas with one year of training at Liskeard Lodge beforehand. After a Billy Graham Crusade in Manchester to which we took busloads of parishioners, we made the mistake of using World Council of Churches material in the follow-up; the gobbledegook of their language was untranslatable to artisans. Better, far better was the visit of Harding-Wood, to take an 'Enjoy Your Bible Week': and taking a book, a chapter, a verse, a phrase and a word, he helped many new converts to appreciate the wealth of the Scriptures (more details). (Ed: The enjoy Your Bible week was actually much earlier - after the 'Mission to Bootle' in 1959, not after the Billy Graham Crusade in 1961).

News of what was happening at St. Leonard's began to spread; John King (Editor of a church newspaper) called us the 'Beacon of the North'. A group of three young ordinands from Tyndale Hall asked to come as a group after their ordinations: I turned that down flat. I was asked to preach at the Cathedral, nerve-racking with its long echo, by the Dean, Dr. Dillistone. Later CPAS had me up to London to speak at their Annual Meeting and David Sheppard, then at the Mayflower Centre, called four of us together with our wives to reflect on our experience in tough urban situations. So the Collins, the Strides, the Sheppards and the Mockfords gathered. It was clear to me that I was working on intuition to a great extent, and David Sheppard thought things through very thoroughly.

The one experience further afield that had a profound effect at the time and beyond was being asked to lead an IVF (Inter Varsity Fellowship) mission in villages near Carlisle. My co-leader was Ruth Wintle, a gracious and able lady, who was to play a key role in promoting women's ministry in the whole Church in ensuing years, with a post at Church Houses Westminster and a Canonry in Worcester Diocese. But what happened on the mission itself was extraordinary: I would wake up each morning with two new sermons in my head that I wrote out and delivered during the day. One I recall was on the text 'Leave your gift before the altar and go first to be reconciled to your brother ...' (Matthew Chap. 5, v 24) and in the Church that night had been placed a huge basket of flowers before the altar, by the lady of the manor! The home I stayed in during the mission was that of the lay reader. He subsequently was ordained and had a fruitful ministry in Lichfield Diocese. The Vicar, George Jennings by name, challenged me to some serious theological study. He was to spend seven years himself acquiring a London external BD - so he meant it.

Returning to Bootle I recounted what had happened in the mission, and a devout Pentecostal elder took me aside and said I had received 'an anointing of the Spirit' but not the Baptism of the Spirit. Inwardly I thought, get lost ... but he was to be proved right years later.

In the April of 1964, after returning from an Easter break, I sensed that something would be waiting for us, indicating our next task. It turned out to be a letter from Brian de Saram of CMS, asking me to consider serving in East Africa as an industrial chaplain at Mombasa. Angela and I went to see a senior clergyman A. G. Pouncey living in the Wirral and a former member of Christ Church, Bromley, to ask his advice. His words to us were 'turn it round and could you say no?' That decided it for us, we could not. We went next to Bishop Martin and he prayed with us and encouraged us to accept saying he should have gone earlier in his life and didn't; and he said he would look after our two parishes and three staff.

Finally, we went for interviews in London: Angela insisted that our family was not yet complete, so we couldn't obey the instruction not to have children in training. I came back with hackles roused, because they insisted on our coming to do a year's training at Liskeard Lodge at Chiselhurst. That weekend the lesson from the Old Testament was II Kings, Chap. 5, and v. 23 stood out in three dimensional sharpness. 'My father, if the prophet had commanded you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much rather then, when he says to you ''Wash and be clean''.' So a letter of acceptance was written', Angela's condition had been agreed to by the Committee.

It was a huge step of faith as we had to sell up most of our furniture. We kept the piano, a family heirloom, and the music cabinet that Uncle Bertie had given us; but all the rest went, and Angela felt it strongly. Added to the move, was the uncertainty whether we would be accepted for service overseas; it was not affirmed till most of the year's training was completed

One of the biblical texts that kept coming to me during this period of change was John Chap. 12, v. 24 'Except a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone but if it dies, it bears much fruit.' I knew such a sideways move overseas meant the end of any professional preferment and advance in this country; but it was more than that, as the Lord knew what he was doing with and for us. We arrived at Chiselhurst tired and exhausted, but ready for some further lessons to be learnt.


 


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