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The Revd Peter Saunders: 1930-2014 

Peter was born in London on 25 April 1930, the elder son of Sydney Walter and Esther Blodwen Saunders. His father was a civil engineer and his mother was, for many years, secretary to her father, the Revd Thomas Phillips, principal of the South Wales Baptist College

Peter SaundersIn 1947 Peter had rheumatic fever and spent several anxious months in hospital and then at home before he was able to return to school. Despite this interruption he excelled academically, winning a scholarship to Cambridge and three years later a first class honours degree in chemistry.  He then went to Durham to study for a doctorate looking at the life-span of radium.

It was in Durham that Peter felt the call to the ministry. As he was later to testify, Isaac Watts’ hymn spoke powerfully to him as it sang of “Love so amazing, so divine.” He vowed such love should have “my soul, my life, my all.” So, after completing only two years of his research, he entered Regent's Park College, Oxford in 1954 and emerged three years later with a first class honours degree in theology.

However his short stay in Durham bore wonderful fruit for the rest of his life. It was there that he met his future wife, Morfydd, daughter of a Baptist minister, the Revd Arthur Price. They were married five years later and enjoyed almost 56 years of a very happy marriage, having four wonderful children, Hilary, Kate, Phil and Gareth.

Peter’s first pastorate was at Christchurch and Upton Church in Kennington, London. It was a united Congregational and Baptist church and during his ministry there Peter was involved in the design of its rebuilding, ensuring that the seating layout fostered the fellowship of believers and insisting on the prominence of the baptistry. He served there for six years before moving to Andover in 1963. However in 1968, honest as ever, he felt it right to withdraw, despite the inevitable vulnerability of such a step. He was eventually enabled to move into academia, finding a post teaching religious studies in St Paul’s College, Cheltenham.

Two years later he became a Tutor at the South Wales Baptist College. The family moved to Cardiff and never looked back. They had come home, to where Peter’s grandfather had been the principal. There were eleven fruitful years of clear and concise lectures on Christian doctrine and many more hours of gracious one to one and group tutoring. There are many who testify to his willingness to give time to his students. With them he was always reluctant to criticise and always modest about his own considerable abilities, a humble Christian gentleman.

It was those same qualities of faithful loving service that led the South Wales Area to call him to serve as Superintendent in succession to George Evans in 1981. That he was Tom Phillips’ grandson ensured his Welsh identity and we were delighted that he acceded to the call. He did not find the task easy, though by his faithfulness and courtesy he endeared himself to many, not least to his opposite numbers in the Baptist Union of Wales.

However, the physical demands that the role made upon him began to take their toll. In September 1988, during a routine visit to Baptist Church House in London, he was taken seriously ill with septicaemia and had to spend three months in St Georges Hospital, Tooting, before he could return home to resume his work. A mere two years later he was again hospitalised, this time for heart surgery, when he had a mitral valve replacement. He had to take serious thought to the question of his physical fitness to continue the punishing schedule demanded of the Superintendency and eventually in 1991 he took early retirement.

In retirement Peter was to have two further operations on his heart, one in 2007 and another in 2009 when he had a pacemaker fitted. Despite all of this he remained very much the same quiet, sharp-minded and gently humorous man of faith that he had been throughout his life. He played a full and active role as a member of the churches to which he belonged. In 2010 he and Morfydd, having been for many years leading members of Llanishen Baptist Church felt it right to move their membership to Bethany, Rhiwbina, Cardiff, notably leading a weekly Bible study group there until a few days before his final illness. He suffered another heart attack in the evening of 6 July 2014, was taken to hospital, and died the following morning.

Those of us who, down the years, have had the privilege of his friendship, and that of Morfydd and the family, have lost a brother beloved. We commend him to God in the sure and certain knowledge of the resurrection to life eternal through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

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