That day in 1989 that Maurice Rowlandson told me that my job as Chief Reporter with The Christian, Billy Graham’s British newspaper, was finished, was one of the most painful of my life.
The year before, I had finally secured a job on The Christian, then the world’s oldest evangelical paper, and moved my family from Birmingham to London, England, to take up my position at the Billy Graham office in Camden Town, where the publication was based.
It was a dream come true for me and I remember that one of my first-ever interviews was with Coretta Scott King, the widow of the slain civil rights leader, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where she was to speak at a memorial service for her late husband. It was followed by scores of others, which included Billy’s wife, Ruth Graham, and other members of the Billy Graham team who were making such an impact for the Gospel in the British Isles.
The staff at the paper were an extraordinarily tight team that bonded well together, and I can remember Maurice, who loved magic, performing his many tricks at the office party, which also included all of the staff of the BGEA.
The Scottish-born editer, Dr. J.D. Douglas, had, after a few months, appointed me as the Chief Reporter, and I thought life couldn’t get any better.
But then, after a few more months, came the hammer blow – the BGEA was to close The Christian and we would be given two weeks’ severance and we would then be out on the streets to seek further work.
It was Maurice that brought the bad news to the staff about the closure of the paper, and I have to say that it caused me to harbor a lot of bitterness towards him, something which I now regret.
Fortunately, I didn’t have any problems finding new work, and after five years with the Middlesex County Times, a west London weekly, I moved into the wicked world of the tabloids, including the Sunday People and the Sunday Mirror.
It was then, while in the tabloids, that I allowed my bitterness towards Maurice Rowlandson to get worse and, as a consequence, I would threaten to write some rather nasty stories about him, which, looking back, were really quite mild. One related to him wanting to charge me for covering a London film premiere for the “Joni” movie for the Sunday People, which I told him was unheard of in journalism.
Fortunately, I didn’t write it up as he had a change of heart and provided the free tickets.
But then, a great change came about in my life, and when I recommitted to Christ in a bar called “The Stab in the Back,” when my friend, Ray Barnett, came to the pub and saw that I was once again drunk and challenged me to give my life back to Christ. He added that he wanted me to start using my writing for God and then asked me to go with him to Uganda to write a book called “Uganda Holocaust,” about the eight-years of terrible misrule of Idi Amin in his devastated country. This I did and I’ve never been the same since.
It was then that I felt the prompting of the Lord, to call Maurice and apologize to him for the way I had behaved and he was so moved that he began to cry over the phone.
“Thank you, Dan,” he finally said. “Let’s be friends from now on.” And of course, we were.
Years later, when I had moved to Southern California with Norma and our two sons, Andrew and Peter, and started the ASSIST News Service, Maurice approached me and began writing a long running series for ANS called “50 Years in Christian Work: From the 50-year diary of Maurice Rowlandson.”
Maurice confided that he had kept just about everything that had occurred in his life on 5 x 3 cards, and he began pulling together a huge number of columns, which were in essence a living history of British evangelism and Christian work over half a century in the UK.
It was a real joy to be working with him in this way, and I enjoyed his many columns, as did many of our readers.
Now, I’ve learned that Maurice Rowlandson was called home to be with the Lord Jesus Christ on August 13th, 2015 – just a few days before his 90th birthday. His was a life well lived.
The BGEA issued the following news release about his passing, which said, “Marilyn [his American-born wife] and the family are very much in our thoughts and we pray that they may sense the presence of the ‘God of all comfort’ at this time. Friends and colleagues will want to honor the memory of Maurice and give thanks for a life spent in the service of God.
“Maurice served as Director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in the UK from 1961 to 1987. His role was to represent and support the ministry of Billy Graham within the UK. This he did faithfully and with great enthusiasm and distinction.
“He served at a time of vigorous activity for Billy Graham in the UK: Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast in 1961, London in 1966, London in 1967, Oxford and Cambridge in 1980, Blackpool in 1982, Bristol, Sunderland, Norwich, Birmingham and Ipswich in 1984, and Sheffield in 1985. All of these were major evangelistic mission events.
“In addition there was the World Congress on Evangelism at Berlin in 1966, the International Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne in 1974 and the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists at Amsterdam in 1983.”
The release went on to say, “Maurice and his team provided essential support for all these activities in so many ways – carrying out vital ‘groundwork’, sourcing personnel and training as well as promoting the activities throughout his enormous network of supporters. He also joined the Billy Graham teams on many occasions on mission activity in Europe and beyond.
“He was enthusiastic about promoting new Christian initiatives in the UK and organized a conference for youth (SPRE-E 73) which attracted 10,000 young people from all parts of the UK.”
A key feature of Maurice’s activity was his networking with numerous Christian organizations and individuals across the UK, establishing good relationships and promoting co-operation. During his term of office with the BGEA in the UK, he recruited hundreds of people in all walks of life to support these great pioneering mission activities.
“Maurice was known for his enthusiasm, organizational skills, administrative effectiveness and leadership – all carried out in a spirit of grace and generosity. Clearly he was a man for the times who performed a vital role in the wave of evangelical activities taking place in that era,” stated the release.
“His work-rate was prodigious: he carried out all these functions effectively whilst maintaining a keen interest in several other areas of activity. His chief preoccupation was, of course, his family life, and he maintained an extraordinary testimony of faith in the face of the most devastating family bereavements and injury. We salute such perseverance.
“Thousands of people will have been hugely blessed by Maurice’s faithful work behind the scenes of a very significant evangelistic endeavor. We give thanks to God for bringing Maurice to us for this work at this time.”
Maurice was director of the UK office of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for over 25 years, secretary of the Keswick Council for some 13 years and founder of the Venturers’ Norfolk Broads Cruise 70 years’ ago, which continues today.
He is survived by his wife Marilyn and two children, their spouses and eight grandchildren, their spouses and four great-grandchildren.
A Thanksgiving Service for his life has been arranged for the 26 September in Greyfriars Church, Reading, UK, at 11:00am. No flowers please are requested, but donations can be made in his memory to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Venturers’ Cruise and the Royal Berkshire Hospital via http://www.memorygiving.com.
SOURCE: Assist News – Dan Wooding