The Revd Geoffrey Norman Fewkes: 1942-2013
On 12 March 2013, the Revd Geoffrey Norman Fewkes, BA, MTh, went to be with his Saviour only weeks after learning that he had advanced and inoperable cancer. His death is a great loss to Baptist and evangelical life in Wales, not so much because of his many commitments, important though they were, as for his very great heart for fellow pastors and leaders, and his outstanding pastoral gifts of friendship and spiritual encouragement.
Geoff was truly remarkable: a man of deep spirituality and prayer yet an irrepressible extrovert and people person; a public figure and passionate preacher yet a loyal friend and a husband devoted to his family and home. His wife, Clarice, was entirely one with him in all of these things. In church life she was always at his side. In their private lives they dedicated their time to people and their home to gracious hospitality, turning the sorrow of childlessness into an opportunity for serving others.
Geoff was born on 19 July 1942 in Brynaman, South Wales. His home was not religious, but at school he was influenced by the evangelical faith of his Religious Education teacher, Brynmor P. Jones (who would eventually become a leading historian of the 1904-5 revival in Wales). At the age of 17, Geoff found that faith for himself at an evangelistic campaign in Clydach, and began to attend the town’s Presbyterian Church, Trinity.
There, a number of beginnings were made that shaped his whole future. He met his future wife, Clarice Goronwy, whose father had been the church’s minister. He heard and obeyed God’s call to the ministry. He imbibed the premillennial teaching that led him to support for many years Prophetic Witness International, where he became a close friend both of Dr. Frederick Tatford and of the Revd Geoffrey King, a leading conservative evangelical in post-war BU life. It was also at Trinity that Geoff began a lifetime commitment to the annual Keswick-in-Wales Convention, serving from 1973 for some forty years as a council member, ten of them as its Chairman.
After school, Geoff studied theology at Leeds University (1961-64) before undertaking pastoral training at the Aberystwyth Presbyterian College. In 1965 he married his beloved Clarice, was ordained, and entered his first pastorate: Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church, Ebbw Vale. In 1970, Geoff and Clarice moved into Baptist ministry at Zion, Brynmawr. His later ministries were at Hay Hill, Bath (1975-80), Moorlands Bible College, as Director of Pastoral Studies (1980-1984), Leigh Road, Leigh-on-Sea (1984-1989), the Bible Society, as Welsh representative (1989-2000) – during which time he completed (1994) an MTh by research through Manchester University on the place of prayer and revival in the life of Reader Harris; and finally Pantygwydr Baptist Church, Swansea (2000-2006).
In retirement, Geoff and Clarice moved to Bridgend and joined Hope Baptist Church in the town centre, where their nephew was the pastor. When the pastorate became vacant, it was almost inevitable that Geoff would be called upon to serve the church, in name as moderator but in fact as a very active interim pastor during the interregnum. Geoff did acknowledge retirement to the extent of resigning from most of his committee work, but he remained to the end deeply interested in evangelical life in Wales, especially within the BU. Or to be more accurate, he remained interested in evangelical people, to the very last remaining a true ‘Son of Encouragement’ to a host of people who felt privileged to count Geoff Fewkes as one of the wisest and best of friends. He is sorely missed.
The Revd Phil Hill, March 5, 2014