Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dick France

I have just heard, courtesy of Graham Tomlin on Twitter, that Dick France has died.

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I'm the Features Picture Editor of the Daily Telegraph and we want to run an obituary of Canon Dick France in tomorrows newspaper.

We would love to use your image. If you could let me know that is ok I would be very grateful.

many thanks
Kate Mayger