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Baptist minister and Greenbelt co-founder dies

John Peck was a Baptist minister who co-founded the Greenbelt Arts festival and has been described as “The Least Known Best Theologian in the World”*

John PeckThe Revd John Peck was minister of Framlingham Baptist Church in Suffolk (1978 – 2003) and Thaxted Baptist Church, Essex (1959-65). He died on 1 July, aged 92.
In 1974, as one of the great thinkers who helped to shape the festival, he co-founded Greenbelt, the Christian arts, faith and justice gathering which has run every year since.  

John was a cofounder and the principal of College House (1976-1995), which ran courses related to the Cambridge diploma in religious studies, focusing on developing a Christian philosophical framework for all of life. He also authored a number of books, and before retiring from public ministry he was a much sought-after teacher and consultant for diverse churches and organisations in the UK, Europe, and the US.
Teacher and writer Charles Strohmer was a friend of John’s, and together they collaborated on a number of projects, including Uncommon Sense: God's Wisdom for Our Complex and Changing World (SPCK). 
‘Because he keeps his head down, not enough people are aware of him,’ Charles wrote, in an introduction to an interview he conducted with John in 1998. ‘Yet for those who are, he is a significant force in the development of a biblical Christian wisdom that has transforming power to meet the challenges of what today we typically call “secular life.’

In a blog post last week, Charles highlighted John’s “exceptional passion for the church”, and reproduced his “I Have a Vision” statement about it. ‘It would be hard to top his lovely and concise picture of a healthy church. It has been printed and framed and hangs on the wall of pastors’ offices. Part of John’s enduring legacy is being experienced today in churches who have taken his vision to heart and found ways to live it.’
Elsewhere Martin Wroe, a Greenbelt trustee, said there was “something of the Gandalf about John”.

‘A little anarchy mixed in with the faith, some mischief with the love, a hint of magic even when you had no idea what he was on about,’ he explained. ‘He looked at you as if he knew something you didn’t and he usually did.’
Charles has also written of the importance of family in his life. 'I suspect John would say that his best achievement was the life-long one in which he and his wife, the late Hanna Peck, raised five biological and forty foster children – oh the stories they could tell!'
In a death notice for The Baptist Times, his family simply described him as their “beloved patriarch.”

*The US art historian Karen L. Mulder’s apt description of John Peck. Photo of John also courtesy of Karen as part of her series “Least Known Best Theologian in the World”

A funeral for John took place in Suffolk on 8 July. A celebration of his life and work followed in August, details to be announced. Email revjpeck@gmail.com for details of charitable giving to Christian International Peace Service.

Related: John Peck - an obituary

Baptist Times, 13/07/2016
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