The Revd Dr W C R Hancock: 1927-2014
'There are many for whom the memory of Bill’s wide ministry will always prompt gratitude'
William Charles Richards Hancock, BA, BD, MSc, PhD, was born in Ilfracombe, Devon in 1927, as was his younger brother Derek.
Their father was a gentleman’s outfitter in the town and also founded and led a very effective Boys’ Brigade Company locally. That Company, the church and his parents all had a part in Bill’s coming to faith, baptism and church membership. Bill expected to follow his father into his business so was content with basic education at school.
National Service brought him into the Coldstream Guards where he became a sergeant instructor of a physical training squad. He was stationed at Caterham, Surrey, and began to attend the Purley Baptist Church where he met Gladys Eva Knight, always known as Lyn. They married in 1949 at Purley and went to live in Ilfracombe for Bill to resume work with his father.
However, increasingly he felt the call of God into Christian ministry, and was accepted as a student into what was then known as the London Bible College. Lyn and Bill moved to London with their eldest child, Ruth, and Bill discovered the satisfaction but also the demands of making progress in academic studies.
Bill became minister at the West Mersea Baptist church, Essex in 1962 and served there until 1969. It was during these years that the family increased with the arrival of Sarah and Tim.
Next, Bill was called to be minister at Mount Pleasant, Northampton, where his abilities were even more widely recognised. In 1977 he was called to be General Superintendent of the Southern Area, but in 1981 a rearrangement of boundaries resulted in a reduction in his area leaving Bill to serve the newly designated South Eastern Area.
His qualities of leadership led the Baptist Union in 1985 to appoint Bill as the Secretary for Ministry, having overall concern for the well being of those in the denomination who were theological students, serving ministers and in retirement. When, in 1989, the offices of the Union were moved from Holborn in London to Didcot, Oxfordshire, Bill and Lyn left Horsham in West Sussex where they had lived since 1977 for Colerne, near Bath.
They continued there after Bill retired in 1992 but they returned to Ilfracombe in 2003. For a few years he enjoyed good health, but then a lengthy period of increasing weakness gradually robbed him of mobility and comfort, though his mind remained sharp to the end, which came in June 2014.
There are many for whom the memory of Bill’s wide ministry will always prompt gratitude. He was a man of compassion, of great integrity and furnished with a shrewd mind from which much valued wisdom and counsel was shared with those asking his help.
He read widely to the constant enrichment of his own spirit, and found particular pleasure in exploring the relationship between politics and Christian doctrine, resulting in his doctoral thesis on the theme of Politics and Nonconfomity in the closing years of the 19th century and up to the First World War.
He had a keen sense of humour, a love of sport, and, most of all, a quiet confidence in the ultimate triumph of all God’s purposes. His very deep love of Lyn, of their children and grandchildren, was a cornerstone of his life, and we commend them in their loss to the grace of the God and Father to whom Bill brought such faithful service for so many years.