Trevor Wilfred Davis: 1931-2013
Through the early experiences of Trevor’s life he believed deeply that ‘everything could be given to God, whether good or difficult, and be woven by Him into a wonderful tapestry’.
Trevor was born in Bristol on 20 May 1931 to working class parents who were both tailors. There were three sons, one who died in infancy, and Clarry and Trevor.
When Trevor was born there was a degree of drama since there were complications connected with the delivery. His mother was admitted to hospital and his anxious expectant father waited on the corridor outside the delivery room. One of the surgeons approached him and said, ‘What are you doing here Davis?’ Trevor’s father had been batman to this man when he was an army surgeon. The surgeon immediately went into the room saying, ‘I’ll see to this personally’, which he did and Trevor arrived safely. The surgeon was Professor Rendall Short of the University of Bristol, a much honoured fellow of the Royal Collage of Surgeons who together with many medical books had published several volumes on Christian apologetics. He was a founder of IVF.
Trevor suffered the loss of his father, who had been very seriously gassed during WW1, when he was 11 years old and with his older brother, Clarry, learned to run the home during his mother's times in hospital due to a depressive illness. These experiences gave him a real understanding and compassion for those suffering bereavement and those coping with depression in themselves or in the family
While Trevor was still in his teens his mother died from burns caused by a tragic accident in the home. The two lad’s were on their own.
He had an excellent education, having won a scholarship as a day boy to Queen Elizabeth Hospital School, one of the "blue-coat" schools. Without appreciating it at the time, he was acquiring the necessary educational foundation for entrance to Bristol and Oxford Universities years later. His brother Clarry and his new wife, Pauline, provided a home for Trevor,
The boys attended Horfield Baptist Church in Bristol and it was there when the late and much-loved Revd W. D. Jackson preached at a Sunday School Anniversary service, that Trevor felt challenged to become a Christian. In that Church there were wise and good leaders who were fathers in God to him and his brother. The church community gave him brothers and sisters, and with a cheeky smile Trevor said he was always particularly appreciative of the sisters!
He belonged to the then popular interdenominational young people's movement named Christian Endeavour and it was through those meetings that he met the girl he was to marry when she was just 16. They seriously began their courtship when she was 18.
On leaving school he commenced training as a quantity surveyor and during that time became aware of a call to the ministry which in the light of his early days is somewhat easy to understand. The Lord was shaping him through all that had happened.
He was accepted for training at Bristol Baptist College but advised to undergo first his National Service, which he did in the RAF as an Air Ambulance attendant.
He entered the Bristol Baptist College in 1954 under the principalship of the Rev. Dr. Leonard Champion who combined high standards of scholarship with down-to-earth training in pastoral matters and personal discipline in preparation for Christian ministry. Trevor always remained grateful for this time of formation at the Bristol College.
In 1957, after gaining his first degree, he moved on to the Regent’s Park College Oxford, reading for a further degree and valuing the "discipline of the mind" demanded there. He never ceased to wonder at having been chosen by God for ministry and that someone from his background should be able to go to Oxford University. In 1959 he and Jill married when she was just 21. Two weeks later he was ordained and inducted into his first pastorate in Hainault by the same W.D.Jackson who had been instrumental in him becoming a Christian.
Hainault on the outer edge of East London was an area where many Londoners whose homes had been destroyed in the war were resettled in new estates. It was a real "love-match" between church and pastor and many of the folk there remained life-long friends and prayer partners. It was here that their two daughters were born, Helen in 1961 and Judi in 1962. During that time Trevor's experience as a quantity surveyor was called upon when a new church building was erected to replace the old prefabricated one. It was here at Hainault that Trevor and Jill had their first experience of the Boys' Brigade and the Girls' Brigade. They realised what a marvellous tool these could be in the Church's outreach to and nurturing of young people in the Christian faith and it led to their lifelong interest in these organisations.
The church grew and there were many baptisms. This was a vibrant and adventurous fellowship. They backed Trevor in his involvement with the Samaritans and saw this as an important part of his ministry. They also supported Jill in her decision to work part-time in social work with foster families, adoptions and families with complex problems where child abuse was a possibility.
Another call came for Trevor's experience in the building trade, this time to lead, with Jill, a group of young Baptists at a Work Camp at Roubaix, near Lille, in North Eastern France, helping to build a church and community centre in a slum-clearance area! They were the first on the site and had to clear away years of dumped rubbish before digging the foundations manually. Their involvement in this project was a life-changing experience for Jill and Trevor and was the start of many life-long friendships with Christians in other countries. The Manse turned into a kind of international hostel. It was not unusual to find two or three young people from France, Germany, America and even Japan on the doorstep. This was the early days of House Groups, and Trevor introduced these into the life of the church with remarkable benefits.
In 1971 Trevor accepted a call to the pastorate of the Leavesden Road Baptist Church, Watford, a large and well-established fellowship which brought quite different challenges.
After 13 years with East-enders, Jill realised that she and Trevor presented something of a culture shock to the church family. One dear elderly lady couldn't easily come to terms with hearing the minister's wife quip that she was" only here for the beer" and when talking with Jill about taking on the leadership of the women's meeting asked Jill if she had any questions. She was rather taken aback when Jill asked if she would be allowed to dunk her biscuits in her cuppa. However they did of course all shake down together and the church provided a good experience for them both maintaining exacting standards in the church. Trevor was actively involved in Association and National Baptist life. There was the joy of many baptisms.
In 1978 came the call to a ministry of a quite different kind - to become the Superintendent Minister of the West Ham Central Mission, a great Baptist foundation in the East End which had developed out of a local church's response to poverty and unemployment. In 1978 it consisted of a home for the elderly, a hostel, and sheltered housing at the east London site, whilst further out in Essex there was a residential therapeutic community of pioneering excellence at Greenwoods and Orchard House a home for boys in care.
Yet again Trevor found himself involved in overseeing a substantial building project for a million pound redevelopment of the London site. Half way through the building, certain promised funding was withdrawn; it needed a very steady hand on the tiller and faith that God would provide, and indeed the project was completed on time and with no debt.
The work entailed much travelling to preach in different churches each weekend, speaking at conferences, and being involved in various denominational committees; constant fund-raising and negotiations with local health authorities and social services. But he always found time to support the Boys' Brigade Company as chaplain and delighted to take part in their annual camp.
In 1990 Trevor reviewed the situation in the light of all the changing legislation affecting the Mission's work and decided that the next stage called for new leadership with different gifts. He returned to the job nearest to his heart, that of being the pastor of a local church. So the Spring of 1991 found him happily installed at Bradninch, an old established small church of 34 members. There followed the first baptisms in many years, and membership and congregation doubled. He enjoyed his involvement with rural churches, and was immersed in the life of the local community, serving on the Town Council and also as Mayor. He was involved in Association life as President and often asked to be moderator in churches during pastoral vacancies. At the age of 60, always up for a challenge, he and Jill started backpacking across France from north to south. It took them four holidays to complete the distance of 620 miles.
He was asked to stay on after retirement age but drew the line at the age of 70 and in 2001 moved to Bideford -.next door to the Goodalls! Trevor had been in Bristol College with Peter. Retirement was an opportunity for more adventures: learning to play the tenor horn in the Bideford Town Band; driving a 3,000 mile round trip to Kiev, in the Ukraine taking computers to a Christian charity; training to be an Alpha Course leader; and organising a trip to the Passion Play at Oberammegau. He continued to preach regularly and acted as Moderator in several churches. Trevor greatly valued being part of the "Open the Book" team, going into the local Junior School assembly. Up until last year, he and Jill continued to camp in their beloved France
Trevor delighted in his home and family. When Helen married Jeff Trevor loved being part of that loving and caring extended family with their three children. The annual family camp would resound to the daily singing sessions with his grandchildren. It was a body blow when daughter Helen died of pancreatic cancer last Christmas.
This year has been a very difficult one of failing health, increasing weakness and dependency. Getting through each day and night was probably his greatest challenge. The love and prayers of family and friends and the care of the dedicated team at the North Devon Hospice sustained him. In the midst of all of this and in the strength of his faith, death on 4 December 2013 was a welcome mercy at the end of a rich and fulfilling life being a follower of Christ. During these latter days the comfort, practical help, strength and love of daughter Judi have meant so much to Jill.
Trevor was a most loving husband, father, grandfather and father-in law. A friend and pastor to hundreds. You could always track him down by listening for the laughter in a crowd. He had the rather rare gift of discernment. He loved cars and motorbikes and anything mechanical. Gadgets fascinated him.
So we remember him. A delightful man of God who was our friend and in whom we saw evidence of the presence of God.
Derek J Keenan January 2014