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The Revd Walter Hargreaves Wragg: 1914-2013

Walter Hargreaves Wragg was born on 15 May 1914. His first job was for the Merchant Navy where he served as assistant to the Harbour Master at South Shields. On receiving a call into Christian ministry he entered Rawdon Baptist College where he obtained his BA degree. It was whilst at Rawdon that he met Regina and they subsequently married.

Walter WraggHis first pastorate was at Girlington Road Baptist Church, Bradford before moving to Blackhill Baptist Church, Consett & Rowley in County Durham in 1944. He always talked fondly of his time at Blackhill. It was during this period (1945 and 1948) that his two sons Peter and Cliff were born.

His next move was to Hucknall in 1951 where he served for 13 years. It was during this ministry that he studied by part-time distance learning with London University, and obtained his BD degree in Theology. Whilst serving in Hucknall he was invited to make some radio broadcasts for the BBC. The first was as the presenter of ‘Sunday Half Hour’, and then a broadcast service on the BBC Midland Home Service and later relayed on the BBC World Service, letters of appreciation being received from many parts of the world.

Under his leadership the Hucknall Baptist Church became pioneers in children’s work and family church and in an early church plant on a nearby housing estate (now a flourishing ‘Seymour Road Baptist Church ). In 1964 he moved to take up the pastorate of the Baptist Church of North Finchley (subsequently to become Trinity Church Baptist/URC).

His last church was at Harlington in 1973 where he also became the Free Church Chaplain at Heathrow Airport. Here he was to work in close collaboration with his Angican and Roman Catholic partners, an ecumenical cause that had always been a feature of his ministry.

In 1979 Wally and Regina retired to Langley in Berkshire where he was able to continue his role as full time Free Church Chaplain at Heathrow Airport. In addition, despite his failing eyesight, he continued to fulfil many preaching engagements including those in the Staines Methodist Circuit.

It was during this period that he had one of his most thrilling experiences. To mark the occasion of 50 years in Ministry, British Airways sponsored a trip on Concorde to New York and arranged for Wally and Regina to meet up with relatives, to have lunch in the airport, before flying them home again to London in the afternoon. New York and back in a day, some trip!

Their son Peter, already having moved to Australia was eventually followed by Cliff’s son, who emigrated to New Zealand. This led to many long distance visits which often stopped off in the United States where friendships and preaching engagements developed.

Wally was at his heart, a family man, a much loved Husband, Dad, Grandad and Great-Grandad. After Regina died in 1999 he continued to live in Langley right up until the beginning of this year when he moved to Rock House in Chalfont St Peter, run by Gold Hill Baptist Church. He died on 22 October 2013, seven months before, what would have been, his 100th birthday.

Wally, during the height of his ministry worked closely with the then Principal of Rawdon College Dr David Russell as it amalgamated with Manchester College to become the Northern Baptist College in 1963. This was also a friendship he kept up until Dr Russell’s death in 2010. In any other life Wally might have had a successful career in academia but his chosen calling and vocation was to grass roots ministry. However, his incisive mind and intellect with his vast knowledge of the scriptures and biblical criticism made for powerful preaching and informed debate.

This intellect plus his wit and dry humour, as well as his endless amusing stories and anecdotes, together with his accomplished musicianship on piano and organ, will all be sadly missed. But his greatest lasting legacy is seen in the many lives he touched during his ministry, and the many vocations to Ministry, he encouraged and nurtured.

The Rev John Teed, October 2013

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