Richard Bewes was the Rector of All Souls, Langham Place for 21 years. He retired to Ealing and so I would occasionally pop in on him for coffee. He would preach for me, but attended the local Anglican Church near his home, much to my frustration. I wouldn’t have theologically dotted all his i’s nor he crossed my t’s but he was a generous, catholic spirited, conservative, anglican, evangelical. Richard went home to glory in 2017.
Richard was a gentle, loveable man. He led All Souls when it was at its largest and kept together a very diverse staff team. I think it would be fair to say he was quite eccentric, so when we would pray together he would say, “Here we are Lord at Curzon Road in West Ealing. You know Paul…” There was a delightful reverent familiarity that he had with the Lord in prayer. I often wondered why he told the Lord our address, but there was a genuineness about his prayer life which was endearing. He was slightly nervous about a burglary at one point as he was often away preaching, so he built what can only be described as a dummy and dressed it up as himself which sat in his living room. So we had coffee and prayed together with the three of us sitting there: Richard, myself, and the dummy.
He once got me involved in filming a series of short online sermons. I was determined not to be involved, but somehow Richard persuaded me. I’d never done it before and never hope to do it again. My abiding memory was him telling me to ‘introduce yourself, and treat the camera like an old friend’. He was a master at it, I most certainly was not. If you get the chance just look at how he greets the camera in these two sermons – The World in 1 Place and Who can crack the code
I remember him saying two things on leadership that struck me. The first was that every appointment is a crisis and so he would devote himself to prayer particularly when they were having to make staff appointments at All Souls. Secondly, he advocated always making sure your successor was more conservative than you are. His reasoning behind this is that men in their ministries generally broaden and relax, with some things they allow at the end of their ministry they wouldn’t allow at the start. To safeguard conservative evangelical theology, ensure your successor is more conservative than you are.
Richard might have not been as Confessionally Reformed as I would have loved him to be, but the Lord blessed him with judgement, soundness of mind and ability to communicate. Combine those gifts with godliness and prayerfulness and what you’re left with is a great church leader. Of all the things that Richard was, he was a man of prayer.
His book Equipped to Serve published in 2013 is the distilled wisdom of a lifetime of Christian Service. I give it to all our Church Staff, but it would be helpful for anyone beginning to serve in church life. There are 25 brief chapters on diverse topics from leading in prayer, small groups, working in a team, all the way to how you set up a room for a prayer meeting. It’s typical Richard, and in some ways idiosyncratic but pure gold.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll drop in some things that he wrote.
He was the author of numerous books all published by CFP all of which are quick reads and pretty unique.
His book on Revelation – ‘The Lamb Wins‘ – is probably the best short introduction to the book giving the big picture. If you’re preaching through Revelation, it’s ideal to get the congregation reading it alongside.
There are other works – Top 100 Questions, Speaking in Public Effectively, The Goodnight Book, 150 Pocket Thoughts, and his last little book Under the Thorn Tree which was a book on Revival that he lived through as a child.
David Meredith interviewed Richard and Alec Motyer in 2012 – which too is well worth watching