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Celebrating the ministry of Paul Goodliff 

A Baptist celebration to mark the retirement of Paul Goodliff took place on Friday, 10 June - and culminated in the presentation of a festschrift, a set of essays in his honour


Paul Goodliff image and book

At the end of April Baptist minister Paul Goodliff retired as General Secretary of Churches Together in England (CTE). His ministry over 35 years has covered local, regional and national roles. CTE held a wonderful occasion to mark his retirement in April, and on Friday 10 June at the Chapel at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, a more Baptist focused celebration of his ministry occurred.

Paul Goodliff preachingPaul was asked to preach by the college chaplain Beth Allison-Glenny. He wasn't expecting a big congregation, so it was to his surprise that just as the service was about to begin a number of friends and colleagues entered the chapel.

He preached what Anthony Reddie, the Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture at Regent’s, called ‘a masterfully crafted sermon’ on Acts 19. 

Messages of appreciation

At the end of the service Beth invited Andy Goodliff, newly appointed lecturer in Baptist History at the college, to share a notice.

The notice was first to give Paul a collection of messages of appreciation from a number of friends and former colleagues across his ministry, honouring the role he has played in Baptist life, especially between 2004 and 2014 when he was Head of Ministry for the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

Among those paying tribute to Paul were Nigel Wright, the Principal Emeritus of Spurgeon's College, London. Referring to Paul's various roles over the years, he wrote 'By any standard all of this represents an unusually diverse and broad range of ministries.'

Nigel added, 'In addition to fulfilling all of these joys and duties with marked competence and flair you have acted as a counsellor, supervisor, retreat-leader, researcher, author, spiritual guide and probably much more, and have done so with courage, independence of mind and inspiration. We are in your debt and it is a personal pleasure to say thank-you.'

Chris Ellis was principal of Bristol Baptist College when Paul became Head of the Ministry Department. He described his contribution as 'considerable', both to theological reflection on Baptist ministry in an ecumenical context and to strategic thinking and planning for healthy ministers 'and, therefore, healthy churches.'

'Your practical attention to competencies, as well as your reflection on the nature of ministry in the wider social context were, rightly, widely appreciated,' Chris wrote.

Jonathan Edwards was Baptist Union of Great Britain General Secretary during the bulk of Paul's period as Head of the Ministry Department. 

He said, 'We ministered together closely for 14 years in regional and national ministry, and I thank God for the warm, gracious and thoughtful ministry that you exercised. I know that the churches and ministers in Central greatly appreciated your pastoral care and support, and nationally you brought energy and determination to a very hot seat.

'You were often given a challenging time at Council but I deeply admired and appreciated the very gracious and kindly way in which you responded to those debates. You enabled us to make progress on a huge number of fronts and, as a denomination, we thank God for the way in which you served us.'

'All the time I have known him Paul has had a total commitment to Christ and his people,' wrote Paul Hills, the former Regional Minister Team Leader of the Eastern Baptist Association. 'This has been shown in his own quest for an ever deepening spirituality, evidenced in his early engagement with the charismatic movement to the founding of the Order of Baptist Ministry.

'It’s been shown in his pastoral work and the way he equipped himself as a counsellor. It’s been shown in his desire for life-long learning which has led to a DMin and the publication of a number of books and articles. 

'Paul works hard and cares deeply.  He has always wanted the best for God’s people and from God’s people.'

This was highlighted in the message from Jeannie Kendall, a recently retired Baptist minister, and a current tutor on the Pastoral Supervision course at Spurgeon’s College, who first met Paul when he was associate minister at Streatham Baptist Church in the 1980s. She recalled how he helped her discern a call to local church ministry, which was 'one of those very ordinary yet deeply prophetic moments', and resulted in 'ten very happy, enriching years in co-ministry'.

She highlighted both his capacity for clear thinking, intellectual rigour and wise compassion, and his 'quiet kindness', adding, 'You have been an incredible gift to Baptist life.'  

Ministry in Conversation - presentation of a set of essays in Paul's honour

Ministry in Conversation Paul The second notice Andy gave was to present to Paul a book in his honour titled Ministry in Conversation.

The festschrift contains a set of essays that put ministry in conversation with some of the loves of Paul life, including art, music, poetry, geography, gardening, wine, alongside those the ministerial aspects which have featured prominently in his life — prayer, ecumenism, counselling, and preaching.

Contributors include Wale Hudson-Roberts, Sally Nelson, Geoff Colmer, Ruth Bottoms and Graham Sparkes.

Former General Secretary David Coffey gave this commendation:

'This book is like a literary soirée, with an able gathering of friends displaying their considerable talents with an array of riches, yet, unlike the soirée, you get to interact with each of them at length! It stimulates the intellect and is guaranteed to stir the imagination.

'The provocative questions engage the reader in an ongoing conversation that will help us to live life in all its fullness.'

Both Andy and John, as editors, hope the book is a fitting tribute to Paul, as well as being a source that will aid CMD for those in ministry.

Paul Goodliff and friends
Paul pictured with friends and colleagues at Regent's Park College following the presentation of the set of essays in his honour

'To be honoured in such a way is humbling'

Responding to the event and the presentation of the book, Paul said,

'I was ambushed by my friends, who to my utter surprise and delight, presented me with a festschrift at Regent's Park College after Friday evening chapel. I thought I was only the preacher for the occasion. It had been kept a very well guarded secret, and explained why a painting of mine needed re-hanging (the cover image is a photo of part of that painting and needed to have decent photo taken by Andy!)

'To be honoured in such a way is humbling and both the range of contributors and the ways they interpreted the brief of reflection about ministry is just splendid. Who would have thought you could write about ministry and gardening (Pat Took, my former fellow General Superintendent) or ministry and wine (Rob Ellis), or ministry and geography (my son Andy, who co-edited this with my fellow Varndean Grammar School alumnus, John Colwell, as he reminded the congregation at Chapel at the presentation!)?

'Other chapters include the more obvious ministry and preaching, prayer, education and ecumenism, and reflect the different roles I have exercised since I joined the staff of Streatham Baptist Church in 1982 — pastor, Superintendent, educator, Head of Ministry and ecumenist — and colleagues who became dear friends along the way.  

'The festschrift was accompanied by good wishes for retirement from many others, and I am deeply touched by their greetings and love, and most especially thankful to Andy and John, the editors of the book, who assembled such a wonderful collection of essays.

'I pray the book will find a life contributing to the conversations about ministry these days both within our Baptist Union and beyond.'

Copies of Ministry in Conversation can be purchased with a 40 per cent discount here: wipfandstock.com/9781666719260/ministry-in-conversation

(The code to activate the discount is GOODLIFF - the discount is available until the middle of July) 

Read Paul's recent article documenting a decade of the Order for Baptist Ministry


Baptist Times, 14/06/2022
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