Saturday, 26 September 2015

What Ted achieved

Stan and Bill
'Could a docker be a priest?'

That was the thought going through the mind of the young vicar of Bethnal Green, Ted Roberts. It rapidly became another question: how could a docker become a priest?

To cut a long story short, Ted found a way, and when he moved over the river to St James, Bermondsey he continued to find a way for local men to be trained, equipped and ordained, to bring the message of Christ to the people in the parish in a language they could understand.

Pictured (above) are two of the three Ordained Local Ministers, from St James who were ordained here in the scheme that Ted had helped to create in Southwark, and had pioneered in the East End.

Today St James was packed for a service of thanksgiving for his life. People came from far and wide to give thanks for Ted, vicar, pioneer, and innovator in ministry.

In my address I said this: 

"It was in the inner city, first in Bethnal Green, and then in Bermondsey that Ted spent much of his ordained ministry. In both places he worked to find ways for local men – it was just men in those days – to be trained and ordained in the church’s ministry. He saw the value of a truly local and indigenous ministry. Priests who were of the people they served, who spoke their language in ways that could connect with the lives they led.

If there is a Scriptural verse that sums up his approach it must be Acts 4.13, where following the healing of the lame man by Peter and John, and their appearance to give an account of themselves before the religious leaders, Luke comments: When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

The apostles were ordinary blokes, but they knew what they believed and they knew how to get it across to others, and they had had the best ministerial training anyone could have: they had been with Jesus.
Ted speaking at his daughter's wedding

What if ordinary blokes from Bethnal Green and Bermondsey, who had been with Jesus, could be trained, equipped, and ordained to bring the Gospel to their own communities? 

That was Ted’s vision which became a triumphant reality, first over in the East End, and then here in Bermondsey, where in God’s good time first, Snowy, then Bill and Stan, became ordained, local, ministers. Two of them are here today, the other is in the presence of the Lord he served.

If the cause of local ordained ministry has been temporarily eclipsed, who can doubt the need for Ted’s vision of ordinary blokes and women, equipped, trained, and ordained to proclaim the Gospel in our inner cities and outer estates, and the need for what he did then, to be done afresh in this generation?

There is a certain local football team (you may have heard of it)  that has the slogan: ‘Nobody likes us and we don’t care.’ It was Ted’s great achievement to show the people of Bermondsey that was not true. 

Ted liked them. Ted loved them. And he did everything in his power to show them that God loved them too. 

And so today in the church where he served we give thanks to God for his wonderful servant, Ted. To God be the glory.'

You can read Ted's obituary here

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