Sunday, February 12, 2012
Dick - RT France to many - was a phenomenal Bible scholar, particularly in Matthew, but also in Mark's Gospel. I knew him all the way through to his retirement in mid-Wales, but perhaps best as principal from my time at Wycliffe Hall.
Best, but not first.
When I first knew Dick he was principal of what was then called London Bible College, I think. I'd finished grammar school & got my place at Oxford, but hadn't yet gone. And, for whatever reason, suddenly I began to think maybe I shouldn't go. Maybe I should go to Bible College instead. I was a very enthusiastic 18 year old.
I applied, and went for interview, and was sure as I prayed about it I was doing the right thing. Lots of the Christian people around me were encouraging me. Dick interviewed me, and said - perhaps this was one of those Abraham & Isaac moments in life. Not that God wanted me to give up a place at Oxford, but wanted me to be willing to. Go, do my history degree, live a bit, and then come back & he'd see me again.
I never went back to London Bible College. But when I went to Wycliffe for interview, he was principal there. He started the interview by saying - Put my mind at rest. Are you the same Marcus Green I saw some years ago in London? How did all that work out?
How did all that work out? Without that experience, and the certainty I got from it that Oxford was the right place for me, I don't think I would have lasted. I was overwhelmed & homesick & a fish out of water in my early days there. The lad in the room next to me did leave. But I stayed - & eventually settled, & eventually loved it. And Dick played his part in that being true.
At Wycliffe, we had occasional run ins. I was hardly a model student. But we were always (at times devastatingly) honest with each other, and I learned to respect him enormously. He was constantly there to help. I found it hard to find the right first post after college. He found it for me.
We kept in touch. When I wrote Salvation's Song, I spent some time with him, asking questions, seeking advice. He was invaluable. Not agreeing with me, but pushing me, making me think, making me try harder.
In Pontypridd there were a couple of moments when I saw him because I was struggling personally. He quietly encouraged me and helped me carry on. I got to know that drive up the A470 to Llangelynin quite well. Beautiful - no - one of Britain's most stunning roads actually.
And, of course, in Pontypridd, Dick had groupies. I discovered this quite by chance. We were studying Mark, I think, in homegroup, & Kirsty & Rhian decided to do extra study together. They found Dick's commentary & used that - and loved it. They were BIG fans. When they told me, I said I'd get him to come & do a day for us in Ponty & they couldn't believe I knew him. They were truly awestruck. So we did it - a fantastic morning, looking at how the Old Testament & New Testament work together, focussing on Hebrews, but using some Matthew stuff as well, and Dick was wonderful. Perfect for a parish setting. It was a huge success, and Rhian & Kirsty, pictured, were thrilled!
Dick & Curly came down for a few days in Cardiff on that trip, and I took them one evening to a heat of the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. It was in June 2009. We had a super evening, and he enjoyed the singing enormously.
Dick was a scholar, a wise man, a thinker, a leader, a pastor, a gentleman and an inspiration. He made his mark on many, many people's lives. I'm glad mine was one of them. I shall miss him, but I can picture him now quietly revelling in his Lord's presence and wondering at things I would only half notice. His face always took on a certain expression when he was considering something, and he could do it & smile at the same time. I'm imagining that, now.
The funeral is set for Friday 17th, and recovering from my operation as I am, I fear I will not be well enough to go. It is not because I do not want to or do not care. And though I know he would understand, still I wish it were otherwise.
Thank you Lord for allowing me such a friend. Bless him, dear Jesus, beyond my mind's ability to ask.