The Revd Peter G Whiting: 1930-2019
'A rich, varied and purposeful ministry'
Peter Graham Whiting, whose 60-year rich, varied and purposeful ministry came to an end on 31 March 2019, was one of those rare jewels, not always instantly appealing to some who failed to appreciate his rare gifts and not exactly what others would expect of a Baptist minister, but therein lay his strength and character which endeared him to many who responded to his warmth, understanding, genuineness and commitment.
Born in Norwich at the height of the 1930s Depression, the youngest of five, the family soon moved to Dorset. His secondary education was at the Yeovil Boys’ Grammar School. He and his brother kept goats, rabbits, ducks and chickens and his ambition to become a farmer led him to various farm jobs as an apprentice. Church played a big part in family life and with a move to Sherborne, after 15 years as a lay preacher, his father became a Baptist minister, baptising Peter in 1948. His call to the ministry (strange to relate) came one day when he was feeding pigs with boiled potatoes. (I did say he was ‘different’!). In four years of training at the Irish Baptist College in Dublin, Spurgeon’s grandson opened his mind to many, and varied ideas and he spent most of his vacations working in a mental hospital.
My first meeting with him was when he arrived as the first minister of an initial pastorate on a new housing estate in Northampton and though only marginally his senior in years of ministry, I was designated his Senior Friend, a relationship which matured over the years to the end. It was a tough call with limited lay leadership and no precedents, but he got his head down, no nonsense, no false piety, and met Lorena whom he married in 1960 and who survives him together with their five children.
After six years the denomination asked him to consider a chaplaincy in the Army, for which he was admirably suited, and which became his major calling for the next 24 years. After thirteen different locations, separated from his family for six months on two occasions, he concluded his service as Deputy Chaplain General. Highlights included parachuting with the Parachute Regiment (1 Para), preaching at St Martins in the Fields and Canterbury Cathedral, and several visits to Buckingham Palace, including one when he was awarded a CBE.
On retirement from the Army he readily returned to the pastorate with ten years at Beechen Grove, Watford, followed by ‘senior years’ (hardly retirement) in Hampshire, ministering to asylum seekers and immigration detainees in Haslar and preaching regularly in local churches. He was laid to rest in a Woodland burial site.
Asked towards the end of life to sum up his faith, he said it was following Him who claimed to be ‘the way, the truth and the life’ and learning to love one another as God loves us, which he not only believed, but practised.