The Revd Steve Bond: 1959–2016
On 21 August 2016, the Revd Steve Bond, minister of Forest Gate Baptist Church, Blackpool, was called home to be with the Lord leaving behind Tracey, their three sons Caleb, Josh and Roo, and foster son Joe. Steve was a well-loved husband, father, minister, and my long-standing friend. He was just 57 years old and died doing what he loved best, serving the Lord as pastor of a local Baptist church.
Stephen Paul Bond was born on 5 July 1959 at St Martin’s Hospital in Bath, the only son of Ken and Myrtle Bond of Twerton, Bath. The family lived in Twerton near to the Baptist Church but Steve was first sent to the St Michael’s & All Angels Sunday School, where he was christened, before being taken to the Baptist church by his grandmother, where his father had pumped the bellows on the organ as a young boy.
The 33rd Bath Twerton Baptist Scout Group was Steve’s main introduction to Baptist life, first joining the Wolf Cubs and then the Scouts. Scouting was to remain an important influence and part of Steve’s life until his home call. Through the leaders and group of Christian young people there, and the ministry of the Revd Cyril Rusbridge, Steve was led to a strong, deep and extremely active faith in Christ. He was baptised by Cyril on Palm Sunday evening, 8 April 1979 along with other members of the Twerton Baptist Coffee Club, including myself, of which Steve was a founder and would go on to lead.
Away from church, Steve was educated at East Twerton Infant and South Twerton Junior Schools, and then the City of Bath Boy’s School which later became Beechen Cliff School while he was there. Steve found Saturday employment at Alexandre of Bath, the men’s outfitters; and on leaving school in 1975 entered the Civil Service whilst continuing to study part-time for his ONC in Business Studies at the City of Bath Technical College.
From 1977 to August 1996 Steve rose through the Civil Service ranks – Clerical Officer, Executive Officer, Higher Executive Officer, Senior Executive Officer, and finally Principal Civil Servant – first in Bath then from 1985 in London. Steve particularly enjoyed working for Naval Married Quarters and at the Joint Service Defence College at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, where he dined beneath their magnificent ceilings each day!
At church Steve’s discipleship and leadership grew apace. As a Scouter and youth leader with the 7-up, 11-plus and Coffee Club groups Steve’s influence was widespread, both at home at Twerton where he was a deacon and in the wider Bristol and District Baptist Association. Steve represented young people nationally and internationally, including the Baptist World Alliance gatherings in Toronto in 1980. Steve was a recognised lay preacher, encouraging smaller and struggling churches in the Bath and Bristol area, who were indebted to his regular visits and his committed and consistent teaching.
On moving to London, Steve settled at East Plumstead Baptist Church, where he had developed good lifelong friendships over the previous five years. The Spurgeon family were to provide a home until he settled in his own flat in Thamesmead. In his new church family Steve became even more engaged, as youth leader, deacon and church secretary, president of the London Baptist Lay Preachers’ Association, and most importantly it was here that he met Tracey who he married on 6 May 1995 and who would be mother to his amazing sons, Caleb born in 1996, Josiah in 1998 and Reuben in 2003.
It was also here at East Plumstead that Steve received the decisive call of God into Baptist Ministry, and which would dominate the final two decades of his life. Part-time training at Spurgeon’s College, whilst still working, would in 1996 become a successful student pastorate at Maidstone Baptist Church at Knightrider Street under the wise mentorship of the Revd Philip Webb, with regular visits into College for two days a week during term time. Pastorates at Welling Baptist Church from 1999 to 2002 and a longer stint at Holly Lodge Baptist Church in Ipswich would follow from 2002 to 2010. From an extended family excursion to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand in 2000 grew a love of Australia which would later become a successful sabbatical placement in a Baptist church there. Steve’s thirst for travel was lifelong, and in his youth he had memorised the national rail timetable. Another enduring hobby was his love of Scrabble. Yet it was the forming and nurturing of groups of young people, who were always welcome in the family home, that formed a consistent thread of Steve’s life and ministry.
At heart Steve always focussed on following God’s clear lead, and fuelling this was a commitment to small churches in need of sustained ministry directing and guiding them into new life. For Steve, this was Home Mission in action. Thus, in 2010 Steve took his growing young family on the tremendously personally sacrificial journey north to Blackpool, where he has been the well-loved pastor of Forest Gate Baptist Church until this time. Steve provided for the church a sense of stability and organisation that they needed as well as the adventure of outreach and mission. Messy Church was established and thrived under Steve’s inspiring leadership, along with a new toddler group and youth group, the annual holiday at home for older folk; and Samaritan’s Purse were inundated with generously filled boxes each Christmas. Suddenly and with little warning Steve was diagnosed with a serious rectal cancer that had spread to his liver and other places. Successful liver surgery followed, followed by numerous other procedures. Steve continued to work throughout the two years and eight months of treatment, even preaching up to the end of July. Steve’s final days were spent in the Trinity Hospice, who did everything possible to make life comfortable for Steve and all the family, and whose praises cannot be too highly sung.
Steve’s committal was held at Lytham Park Crematorium, St Anne’s, followed by a substantial and well-attended thanksgiving service at Forest Gate Baptist Church, on 2 September 2016. Steve will be greatly missed but his influence and legacy will live on, not least through his family and close friends. Scouting has always been a big part of Steve’s life and mission so it was fitting that the service ended with the congregation being invited to lay stones in a circle with youngest son Roo laying the final stone in the centre. As all good Scouts know, this is the tracking sign that clearly indicates: GONE HOME!
The Revd Kerry J Birch, Minister, Ryde Baptist Church, Isle of Wight