Three or four hundred gathered in Bethel Chapel, Aberystwyth last Saturday to celebrate Geoff Thomas's fifty years as pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church. Geoff gave a God honouring account of himself (mentioning among other things what a blessing the students have been and attempting to list those who, like myself, have gone into the ministry after being in AP - Austin Walker, Chris Peggington, Graham Heaps, Keith Underhill, Keith Hoare, Alan Davey, Tim Mills., etc, etc. New Zealand got forgotten somehow [Stephen Turner, Dafydd Hughes, Geoff Lloyd] but we can forgive a few senior moments). It was good to worship God with hymns old and new.
In recent years Geoff has become good friends with Joel Beeke of Grand Rapids and it was good to have him present to preach from 2 Corinthians 6:8-10 on "Recognising the paradox of ministry"; "Not rejecting the paradox" by either attempting to escape the insignificance of ministry by self vaunting efforts or by denying your real greatness and "Rejoicing in the paradox" that comes in knowing that God has called you to be his servant and to "minister the simple Gospel to simple people in simple truth." It did me good and many others I hope.
We then adjourned to Alfred Place for a cuppa and cake. This was managed extraordinarily well by a family connected to the church. This was in the basement. After an hour we headed upstairs where several spoke. Austin Walker from Crawley began by recalling what help he had received from Geoff as a student before heading off to Westminster. He was the first of several to choke a little. David Griffiths of OMF was very emotional describing what a help Geoff's little booklet on dealing with remaining sin had been for Filipino suffering with AIDS. Gareth Edwards spoke on his own behalf and the EMW (who as he put it are very thankful to be able to hold their conference as a sort of add-on to his own!). Meirion Thomas spoke again on his own behalf and the family's. Richard Holst was another who could speak with gratefulness of Geoff's help in student days. Robert Strivens had a brilliant story of Geoff jump starting his car at Banner Conference when a young and diffident minister. He also brought a book of Calvin's sermons on Titus from the Banner trustees.
We were always in danger of exalting the man I guess but both he and we were always careful to give the glory to God and to recognise that a pastor is only any good if there are people to listen and to pray.
Celebrations continued the next day but I will old that over for another post.