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.