The Revd Roger Aldersley: 1939-2022
Of all the former ministers of West End Baptist Church in Westbury, Wiltshire, none are more affectionately remembered than the Revd Roger Aldersley
Roger Wilson Lyndon Aldersley was born in Plymouth, Devon on 30 July 1939, the son of two local teachers. Growing up in Plymouth, Roger attended Plymouth College. His further education began at the London School of Economics in 1958.
However, after the first year he transferred to Regent’s Park College in Oxford to read Theology, in order to become a teacher. This was because during his year in London he had committed his life to Christ, under the guidance of Den Hull, the lay pastor of Broadmead Baptist Church at South Woodford.
The discussion that led to Roger’s conversion, started with Den challenging him, 'You come to church and bible study, are you a Christian?'
'I think so…' replied Roger.
'Thinking won’t save you. Have you ever told Him? If not, how will He know???'
Following his commitment to Christ, Roger was baptised by pastor Reg Brock at Hooe Baptist Church in Plymouth. Years later (at pastor Brock’s funeral) he found out that Reg had been praying for him for eight years before he became a Christian.
When Roger changed course in 1959, his intention was to be a self-supporting lay pastor serving small churches who could not afford a minister. However, the Baptist Union was not in favour of this, so Roger offered for full-time ministry during his penultimate term at Regent's. Following his theological training at Regent’s Park, Roger taught Religious Education for a year at a comprehensive school at Walsall, during which time he married Jean Rasmussen (whom he had originally met when she served him in a stationery shop in Oxford) and allowed his name to be sent to interested churches seeking a new pastor.
In January 1964 (just after marrying Jean) he was unanimously invited to be the minister of West End Baptist Church. Both of their children were born during their time in Westbury: Paul in 1965 and Sandra in 1967.
During their time in Westbury, the manse was a very happy place, with an open door – especially where the young people were concerned. Throughout their ministry and working life, young people have always been their priority. The work at West End partly led to the building of a youth centre in the town, and while at Crownhill Methodist Church, they ran the youth club which was recognised as one of the leading ones in Plymouth (as well as producing at least one minister and one full-time missionary). Roger also sought to keep his hand in with teaching during his time at Westbury (supply teaching in the local senior school).
Decades later, his acts of kindness in the church and beyond are still remembered. On one occasion, the lawn of one elderly member had become a sort of hayfield, and there was Roger in shorts and stripped to the waist, with a scythe in his hand cutting it down for her. When a neighbour was concerned about the mental health of her brother, Roger helped her get him into a home in Bristol, and although they were not members of the church, he used to take her across to visit him.
In March 1969, after five years of successful ministry, Roger tendered his resignation and the family moved to Bristol in order to pastor Victoria Park Baptist Church in the city. Unfortunately, the pastorate there only lasted three years and in 1972, Roger resigned from the church and from full-time ministry altogether, returning to his home city of Plymouth.
With the move to Plymouth in 1972, Roger was appointed at Sutton High School as head of Economics and Careers. During his time there (1972-82) Sutton High was one of the earliest schools in the country to start work experience. From here he moved onto Hele’s Comprehensive School at Plympton where he was head of careers, economics, business studies and computing. Roger left teaching in 1996 – although in retirement he also taught NVQ number skills for a couple of years on a part-time basis.
For their first ten years in Plymouth, Roger and Jean attended Crownhill Methodist Church; after which (1984) they joined Mutley Baptist Church as very active members. For a year (1998-9), Roger was also lay minister of Christchurch (ecumenical) church at Estover. Over the years he has also been a Methodist local preacher and an Hon. Chaplain at Derriford Hospital. Both Roger and Jean have been involved in Street Pastors, amongst other things, and in more recent years, have been volunteers for “Buzzy Bees” (part of Mutley Baptist Church’s community work) and prayer partners to Devon and Cornwall Police Chaplains.
During 2006, they served for a year with the International Nepal Fellowship through the Baptist Missionary Society. This time in Nepal led to the foundation of a UK based charity called SAHODAR UK (SUK), the aim of which being to support SAHODAR Nepal (SN) which offers church-based community development in Garambeshi, one of the most deprived rural areas of the country. Almost annually since 2008, Jean and Roger have taken medical, leadership and teaching teams out to Nepal – servicing almost a thousand medical cases on one occasion.
Roger died on 19 June 2022. Roger’s son, Paul, summed up his father’s lifetime achievements at his funeral at Mutley Baptist Church on 13 July, in a simple sentence, 'He lived his life giving to others striving to help people achieve the best for themselves.'
We can indeed thank God for the life and witness of Roger Aldersley, pastor, preacher, missionary, educator, chaplain, motivator, inspirer, helper, friend.
Graham Warmington (also a former minister of West End Baptist Church)