The Revd Frank Amos Goodwin: 1914-2014
Former President of the Baptist Union, a local pastor par excellence
Frank was born into a Roman Catholic family on 7 December 1914 and was educated at St Joseph’s Roman Catholic School, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire. He left school aged 14 and worked for a glass company.
By 16 he was a glazier in his own right and had men working for his growing business. It was through the ministry of the churches of the Old Baptist Union that he came to faith in Christ and was baptised at the age of 21 in December 1935. Soon afterwards he became involved in evangelistic work in Colchester and then at Swansea until 1940. In Cockett Swansea he had rented personally a small hall, cleaned and decorated it and began to build up the small membership of people baptizing converts in the open river.
He first applied to become an accredited Baptist Minister when he commenced his ministry at Mumbles Baptist Church Swansea on the 9th November 1940. In November 1944 the BU Ministerial Recognition Committee decided to insert his name in the list of Probationers in the Baptist Handbook. Frank had applied for recognition having gained the London Certificate of Religious Knowledge, but not taken the usual Baptist Union Certificate. Apparently he failed his first sermon outline examination because of his poor spelling!
As he matured in his ministry he would preach without notes. He said his early sermons were full manuscripts, but sometimes he would hit the pulpit so hard in making a point, his notes would fall to the floor leaving the preacher (and the congregation!) confused. He found it easier to ponder at length on a biblical theme, and then enter the pulpit without notes, but with a heart and mind prepared to preach.
From 1945 Frank spent three years at Bethesda Narberth, and then from 1948 until 1964 he ministered with great fruitfulness at Chatsworth in West Norwood, London. When he arrived at Chatsworth the church was a bombsite, the membership had been evacuated during the war years and was worshipping in various prefabricated huts. Under Frank’s leadership the church grew and eventually they moved into the new church building in 1959.
The rebuilding of Chatsworth owed much to the inspirational ministry of Frank and the magnificent new building was opened free of debt and in addition the church was able to make a thank offering donation of £1,500 to the London Baptist Association Ter-Jubilee Fund. At the first baptismal service in the new building in November 1959, forty people stepped forward to accept Christ for the first time and seek a deeper commitment by being baptized. It is estimated that following the opening of the new church building, 150 people were baptized and a greater number added to the membership of Chatsworth.
One of those present in November 1959 was Vic Jackopson who had recently been discharged from Winchester Prison where, through reading a Gideon Bible, he had accepted Christ. Living near to Chatsworth he attended a service but soon concluded that church attendance was not for people like him. But as he left the service Frank Goodwin shook his hand and asked his name and where he was living. Vic shared he was a discharged prisoner on probation living in a bail hostel in Tulse Hill. Frank invited him home for tea and stripped of his clerical collar and puffing on a pipe, Frank told Vic in the most fascinating way the truths about Jesus.
Through Frank’s inspiring mentoring, it was only months before Vic was preaching beyond the walls of the church, taking the gospel into the night life of London’s Soho of the 1960s and ministering to the down and outs on the London Embankment.
Vic did not see the need to have a theological education to evangelise the world, but Frank, the non-collegiate minister, urged him to apply to Spurgeon's College. He knew Vic had the ability to reach people at street level but he wanted Vic to be equipped to reach the elite and educated as well. He advised Vic to always draw a circle wide enough to draw everyone in and exclude none. After training at Spurgeons Vic went on to have a fruitful ministry of 55 years of preaching in many countries and seeing many thousands won to Christ. Vic symbolises the countless men and women who were drawn to Christ through Frank’s pastoral ministry and with his careful mentoring and friendship they became fruitful followers of Jesus.
Frank returned to minister in Wales in 1965 as minister of Tredegarville Baptist Church Cardiff and then in 1969, he was called to be Director of Evangelism for the London Baptist Association. Frank undertook this role for three years before moving to Hinckley in Leicestershire in 1972 where he spent the 8 years before his official retirement in 1980. It was during his time at Hinckley, that he served as the BU President 1976-77.
After his retirement Frank and his wife Eirlys lived in the United States for ten years serving in various interim ministries including churches in Boston, Denver, Oregon and New York. They finally retired to Tenby in 1990 and Frank assumed the oversight of Bethel Baptist Lovestone where he served for ten years. In his capacity as a past President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain he served as a member of the BU Council.
Throughout his years of ministry Frank was supported ably by his wife Eirlys Mary who came from a staunch Welsh Presbyterian background and had an effective ministry in her own right. Eirlys served as President of the Baptist Women’s League and President of the Free Church Women’s Council. Together they raised their four gifted daughters Elizabeth, Christine, Joanna, and Rowena.
The family describes Eirlys as the rock in Frank’s life. She provided the framework for his free spirit and was a grounding influence for his public ministry. When Eirlys died in 2002 Frank grieved for the love of his life to whom he had been married for 59 years. Frank thoroughly enjoyed the role of being patriarch of a large family of 11 grandchildren and 23 grandchildren and his annual birthday celebration in December was the highlight of the family social calendar. One of his final public services was conducting the wedding of his granddaughter Naomi in 2005. The measure of Frank’s Christian witness in the family was summed up by one of his daughters, who when asked when she became a believer replied: ‘I can’t remember an exact time and place, but what I do recall from my childhood was, it was as if Jesus was living in our front room’.
Frank Goodwin was a local pastor par excellence. His warm and engaging personality wedded to his ability to present the Gospel in down to earth language, made him an immensely effective evangelist.
Former BUGB President Roy Jenkins conducted his thanksgiving service at Bethel Baptist Church Lovestone Pembrokeshire on 7 August 2014. Frank was four months short of celebrating his 100th birthday.
The Revd Dr David Coffey