Heroines and heroes

In honour of Christine Noble and Gerald Coates

That is probably not a good title to use for this post for reasons that will become evident. A while back the leader of the Evangelical Alliance of Spain said that we have a problem in our charismatic world system. We have heroes / heroines on the platform and meanwhile we occupy the seats as admirers. They, the superstars, are elevated, we dream of being like them, but the gap is forever there, and the circus goes on, as we seek out the next ‘life-changing’ conference. Marcus said, in contrast to the above circus, we have to touch the reality of lives and be touched in the reality of our lives, then the superstar / admirer relationship gives way to mutual discipleship.

The title is not the right one, for I want to write about the passing away of Christine Noble and Gerald Coates this weekend. It is not the right title for they never elevated themselves as superstars, yet influenced many, and were known and let themselves be known. Human, like us, yet dedicated to pursue the Lord and the kingdom of God.

Years ago I wrote a book For Such a Time as This and dedicated it to Christine Noble (and Gustavo Guitierrez). To Christine as she was such a forerunner in creating paths where others could follow, women for sure, but also an inspiration right across the genders. It has been moving to follow during the past years how the Noble family have journeyed in the situation of a prolonged illness for Christine. They have always modelled something unique as family. John posted:

Saturday 2nd of April and the love of my life finally listened to me and went to be with Jesus at 2.45pm. I had been telling her to go for ages but whenever did she take any notice of me? She always did things in her own time and way and was obviously determined that she would wait until the kids arrived together to say their goodbyes.It has been a long hard struggle but now it’s over for her and we must continue to receive strength from her example and to honour her by making sure that we finish our race in faith and good heart before we go to meet and join her in joyful reunion .So, it has been a time of tears of unbearable pain and now tears of intense relief as her suffering has ended.

As I read those words the obvious generational legacy was so clear.

A few hours later, Sunday morning Gerald passed away. On Jan. 9th, 1977 Sue (Middlemiss) and I moved to Cobham as a young (21 years old) engaged couple where for the following decades our lives were intertwined with what was then called Cobham Christian Fellowship (later Pioneer People). We moved thinking that we would be married in a few months then would be live there a year or maybe two. The year or two passed and we stayed, captivated by the community that was present. The honesty, down to earthness of it, but the desire for ‘on earth as in heaven’ got inside of us. Those characteristics flowed from the lives of Gerald and Anona Coates. In those days Gerald was criticised by so many in the wider evangelical world but always held true to what he was convinced of. Honesty, transparency and integrity.

I have been influenced by many people and, as for all of us, there are those who become more significant at a given time than others, but I think no one has influenced me as much at the core of my being as Gerald. Starting that journey when I was 21 some of what I observed and experienced is present within me still 45 years later.

Religion did not have a hope of being encouraged when around Gerald. He had a way with words and often with a phrase where one might be laughing but at the same time realising that the phrase had exposed something hidden on the inside. That something hidden was often at the same time something deep and a mask being worn to protect.

There are many stories I could recount from those decades when we journeyed together. Suffice to say I am eternally grateful that as a young 21 year old I had the opportunity not simply to sit in a pew, but to rub shoulders with someone who influenced enormously the Christian faith in the UK and beyond. I am a different person as a result.

We run a race. Not always at the same pace, not always in the same geography. That race is corporate and individual. There are those who continue to inspire. This weekend two very significant people have come to the end of their ‘race’. Their legacy lives on, so many can testify to that.

13 thoughts on “Heroines and heroes

  1. Great words Martin. Since I first saw Gerald at the Grapevine Celebration, as a young 16 year old, brand new Christian, he has been a provoker, encourager and influencer of my life. I had never seen the prophetic in operation until that weekend, and I was intrigued and drawn into a fresh world, and a dangerous path. I tried to hear him speak as often as I could, read his books, bought the cassettes (remember them?) of messages from conferences. He was controversial, but always with a twinkle in his eye. A pioneer, who ruffled feathers, but loved nothing more than building bridges. Was passionate about people, and loved the church. The last time I saw him speak, was many years ago now, at the AOG conference, where he spoke on the hearts of the fathers towards the sons, and sons to the fathers. The last contact I had was to excitedly inform him that I had deconstructed from much of church life, to which he replied (and rightly so), “OK, but don’t lose your love for the Church and the people, because God loves them passionately”. Was a bit miffed because I wasn’t in a place to hear those words at the time. But as my journey continues, and the broken pieces begin a restructuring, his words ring truer than ever. In life’s contradictions, we should not have heroes, but he was a hero of mine. I learnt not to put him on a pedestal, but to see him as a father of faith, who inspired and equipped many of a generation. May not have agreed with him all the time, but he would not have cared about that. His priority was always kingdom and people. (Wish I knew Christine as well).

  2. Thank you Martin. It is definitely more of a privilege to rub shoulders than to sit in serried rows being awestruck.

  3. Thanks Martin. What a privilege it was to run the race with both Gerald and Christine. As our race continues it is good to remember our roots, these two great Pioneers, their inspiration to so many and to continue making a difference.

  4. Thanks for sharing Martin. Both Christine and Gerald impacted so many and were at the forefront of stretching our boundaries further. Hopefully we can take what they have done and stretch things further. A significant weekend that has just passed.

  5. Sorry for your loss Martin. I did not meet them but I prayed a prayer of thanks for their lives because I know much of what I’ve experienced in the spirit has been born out of their love and work for the kingdom and the church and their influence upon people like yourself whom God has used to impact my life.

  6. He certainly blew a wind in my sail. When your in transition or resisting something which is no longer a release but a tether, we look to our left and right with a deep hope that someone will say its ok, God is in this, there is more for you if you just resist, protect space, and move forwards. Gerald was that for our crew, while being participants at what i look back and refer to as a youth movement, something rising.
    Gerald couldnt tell you where you were going, it was often a place none of us had been, but like a good father, gave permission to explore, to keep going and at a personal level, drawing out a truer version of who you already are, and are becoming.

  7. Very grateful for all the comments. There are many ‘end of eras’ and beginnings of others… obviously when we have experiences of people passing on that we have been connected to underlines that even more so.

  8. Lovely words Martin for two genuine pioneers. Lifting you up in my prayers Martin. Much love.

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