Friday, September 13, 2013

Oliver Barclay (1919-2013)

Oliver Barclay died yesterday. A giant of whom the world was not worthy, now cheering us on in death as he did in life. Oliver was one of the leading lights of the UCCF movement over the past century, and a man whose fingerprints are left all over churches and individuals in the UK and far beyond.

I had the privilege of meeting Oliver one January evening in 2002 as a quirk of an accomodation plan that had landing myself and my good friend  and fellow UCCF intern Rich staying with Oliver and Daisy for a week. When you sign your name in the guest book on the line under John Stott you realised you're a minnow in a giant's house.

Truth be told, aged 22 I had never heard of Oliver when we were given his name in the dark corridor of UCCF's old Leicester office (a centre he had established). Little did I know how much my Christian life - formed over the previous four years in the air of UCCF - had already been shaped by Oliver's ministry. What we found behind their front door was a gentle, friendly, understated and deeply inquisitive 81 year old who with his wonderful wife demonstrated outstanding hospitality and kindness.

Oliver subsequently encouraged me to join UCCF's staff team in 2003 and became a supporter and occasional counsellor to me over the years. My wife and I would pop in and see them in Leicester from time to time - something made more difficult by our move to to the South West. Those occasional hours, the last of them in late 2010, were enriching and provoking and inspiring. He maintained a genuine interest in frontline student ministry.

Our last phone call (a couple of years ago) was him picking up something in my prayer letter - he wanted more detail to fuel his prayers and to humbly offer his wisdom and correction to the situation.

Read more in the obituary at
"He had no formal theological training but developed in himself – and cultivated in his staff – the ability to ‘think theologically’. He read through Calvin’s Institutes each year and prayed daily for a deeper understanding of the meaning of the death of Christ. He never lost sight of his dual task, to strengthen a witness to Christ both in the student world and among faculty. He followed news of UCCF missions closely until recent months, and remained as convinced as he had been in his early days that ministry in the university world was the most strategic way to build a thoughtful acceptance of biblical truth. We thank God for Oliver Barclay’s tenacity and far-sightedness, his shrewd judgment and his passion for the gospel; and we commend his widow Daisy and his four children to your prayers." 
Here are some words from Oliver, from his out of print UCCF booklet on When Science and Faith meet:
He worked hard to foster "a Christian mind" among students and graduates, demostrating the integrity with which one can follow Christ.
I give thanks to God for his work in and through Oliver. Another treasure, with his friends and co-workers Bill and Shirley Lees, and John Stott, now resting with his Saviour.

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