The Revd David John Cave 1947-2017
A gifted communicator, a passionate preacher, and an enthusiastic Bible teacher; much-loved husband, father, and grandfather, and a friend to so many
David John Cave was born in Portsmouth, where his father was working following service in WW2, and his parents moved back to his mother’s home town of Rhyl, North Wales, when he was a small boy. Dave – as he was almost always known – attended Rhyl Grammar School and enlisted in the British Army. One day, quite alone, he read his Bible, prayed, and that was where his Christian journey began.
He suffered an incapacitating back injury and spent a year immobile in a military hospital. During this time he was visited by SASSRA representative who lent him a Thompson Chain Reference Bible and he was able to spend his time reading and studying.
On discharge from military service on grounds of incapacity, Dave returned to North Wales, where he became involved with a small church at the end of the road. As his faith and passion to share it grew, he was accepted for training at the then Congregational College in Manchester. During his time at college he and Tina, also from Rhyl, were married in 1971 in their home church. They spent some time in a student pastorate at Wilbraham Road Congregational Church, and on ordination Dave was inducted to Holme URC, Bradford, a new-build church on a huge council estate. Dave and Tina moved from the former rather isolated manse, to live on the estate, and their two sons, Gareth and Merfyn, were born in Bradford.
Dave had a lifelong passion for those who were poor and on the margins of society, and the work on the Holme estate grew during his time there, to develop into what is still an active community church today. Throughout his ministry, Dave was a gifted communicator, a passionate preacher, and an enthusiastic Bible teacher, both of which he loved, and he was just as happy chatting and sharing his faith in Jesus with people on the street corner. He always used humour in his messages, and often took risks with people and situations, which usually paid off!
In 1977 the Cave family were called to a new situation, at the Rock Church Centre in Everton, Liverpool. A small inner-city church with informal services offering a welcome to people unused to attending traditional churches, The Rock operated a community centre with playgroups, youth clubs, pensioners’ activities, and a sports barn offering 5-a-side hire to local teams, some of these activities in partnership with the city council. This was another tough situation based in an area of new council housing with low employment and deprivation, and all that comes with it. Before long, the congregation grew with a number of local residents, particularly many young people, and church involvement with community activities grew.
Summers were occupied with six-week play-schemes and summer camps in North Wales, often for children who had never left their home city. As with Holme URC, young people came to faith, and again, some have gone on to serve in ministry and in the wider church.
Over the years Dave and Tina felt called to a change of emphasis in ministry and in 1983 they moved on from the Rock to set up Anfield Road Fellowship from their home, which for the next decade or so offered non-traditional and informal worship, usually in their living room, alongside church services and Bible studies, a daytime lunch club every weekday for mainly unemployed men, support for homeless men through a local housing association, drop-in facilities for those with drug and alcohol problems, and much more. It was during this time that Dave became accredited with the Baptist Union, although the Fellowship was not supported financially by any denomination. Again, members and friends and those passing through came to faith and have continued in their personal journeys, often in a variety of ministries.
In 1993 Dave took on a role in the wider church as consultant with the Evangelical Alliance, the first co-ordinator of the Alliance Commission on Unity and Truth among Evangelicals, drawing together a forum to consider big issues of the day from the Christian evangelical perspective.
Dave and Tina returned to Wales in 1996, to a more conventional ministry at Pantygwydr Baptist Church in Swansea, a large, active church with a significant community role in the city. Then, after several years in Swansea, Dave received a call to Sussex Street Baptist Church in his home town of Rhyl, and it was back to North Wales. Sussex Street was and is a large and lively community church ministering to a wide range of individuals, long-term residents and those who have come to the seaside town from large cities in the North-West, Liverpool and Manchester.
Dave retired from paid ministry whilst in North Wales, but never one who was going to languish in retirement, he and Tina spent several years in Georgia, USA, where they served as part of Mount Vernon, and Open Door, Baptist Churches.
On their return to the UK they settled back in Liverpool, a stone’s throw from their earlier churches in the now much-redeveloped area of Everton. They quickly became involved in two local non-traditional churches, continuing to reach out to people who slip though the net of more mainstream churches, and particularly those struggling with addictions.
Sadly, Dave died very suddenly on 17 November 2017. At his funeral and thanksgiving service, many friends from the past paid moving testimony to lives that were influenced by Dave’s friendship and ministry. His life was shorter than we would have wished but it was filled with activity borne of a desire to encourage the vulnerable, and to share the vision of the Gospel in the most appropriate way.
While we, his family, are so sad that his life came to such an unexpected and untimely end, we share a wealth of happy memories, and we thank God for a much-loved husband, father, and grandfather, and a friend to so many.