The Revd Rowland Graham Cole: 1937–2018
Baptist minister at Miskin Baptist Church Penrhiwceiber, Wood Lane Baptist Church Dagenham and New North Road Baptist Church, Huddersfield
Rowland was privileged to have been brought up in a Christian home with a strong Christian heritage. His grandfather was a London City Missioner and his parents were brought up in a Christian environment and met at Trinity Road Baptist Church in Upper Tooting, London.
Sundays at Sutton Baptist Church were very full days with church in the morning, Crusaders in the afternoon and then as Rowland got older, church again in the evening.
Rowland attended a Scripture Union camp in Lymington, and it was there that he dedicated his life to Jesus.
While his Father would lay-preach, Rowland and his brothers would often travel with him to churches all around south London, assisting him in the services by either reading the scriptures or leading the prayers.
Rowland and his three brothers were baptised at Sutton Baptist Church and became assistant Crusader leaders. Rowland became chairman of the Sutton and District Christian Youth Council and quickly learnt that ecumenical activity was only of value when it was linked to social outreach and evangelism.
After leaving school, Rowland went to All Nations Bible College. During his time there he received ‘the irresistible call to the ministry’. After graduating he was ordained a minister by Sutton Baptist Church and then worked in the team ministry at West Ham Central Mission, under the leadership of the Revd Stanley Turl and alongside the Revd David Sheppard (the former England cricketer who later became the Bishop of Liverpool) at the Mayflower Centre.
Keen to go into the Baptist ministry Rowland then went to South Wales Baptist College at Cardiff. On Sundays the students would go to local churches to preach and Rowland went to the Baptist church in Penrhiwceiber on several occasions, being entertained for lunch by a young lady Beryl, who ran the Sunday school. After graduating he accepted a call to be the pastor of that church and subsequently married Beryl in 1966.
Rowland and Beryl then moved to Dagenham Baptist Church and started their family, where they were blessed with two sons, Justin and Jonathan.
Their ministry was a real partnership, and many have noted that whoever employed Rowland, had two for the price of one! Beryl was totally supportive of Rowland’s ministry and fully involved in church life wherever they were. One friend at New North Road Baptist Church in Huddersfield went as far as saying that Beryl was his ‘greatest asset’.
“Rowland was the people’s pastor“ in the words of a member of the congregation from New North Road Baptist Church in Huddersfield, where Rowland served between for over 25 years. I’m sure that phrase, the people’s pastor, would echo round the churches he served in Wales and Dagenham, too.
He was a good listener and so very kind, especially to those facing difficulties. Rowland related easily to people, was of a gentle nature, but no push-over. Rowland prepared diligently for leading worship and writing sermons. He was very open to discussing his sermons, listening carefully even when challenged about what he had said, and he valued further engagement.
Indeed, Rowland was anxious his thanksgiving service paid tribute to his partnership with Beryl. An amazing partnership we can see how well they complemented each other, were devoted to each other and to the family. We all know how much Rowland missed Beryl since her passing in 2010. Beryl nurtured a Godly atmosphere by her care, her loving presence and that smile! Rowland and Beryl worked together in so many ways, including organising walks and to the Mystery Plays in York, leading weekends away for children, young people and adults. Behind the scenes, Beryl was Rowland’s strong and steady supporter; their home was a place of hospitality and love.
From the viewpoint of the Yorkshire Baptist Association, they experienced the same pastoral Rowland. He chaired the Area Pastoral Committee for the Baptist Union which looked after all aspects of ministry in the North East of England. Later, he chaired the Ministry Group of the Yorkshire Baptist Association which had the function of interviewing applicants for ministry right through to ensuring pastoral care for ministers. Rowland always made it a priority to attend ministers’ meetings and expressing his support for Baptist and other churches in the whole region.
The Revd Ernie Whalley was a beneficiary of that same pastoral care. Almost every conversation he had with Rowland, whether on the phone preparing agendas or meeting/chatting with him after retirement, Rowland would ask after his health and his wife. He was an ‘encourager on the road’ who will never be forgotten by those who knew him. Essentially, he saw himself as a ‘servant of Christ’ and he was a ‘good and faithful one’ who will now have received the ‘Well done!’ of his Master.
In his retirement, Rowland and Beryl moved to York, where he continued preaching, advising, encouraging and became a guide at York Minister, which was fitting as he had a strong commitment to ecumenism too.
At the Thanksgiving Service Ernie Whalley remembered Rowland through part of an Anglican prayer (slightly adapted):
So, we remember before God, Rowland, reunited with Beryl and all who rejoice with us today but from another shore and in a greater light…. That multitude which no one can number whose hope was in the Word made flesh.
Rowland was so proud of his family and their achievements, the Dearly loved husband of the late Beryl, dad of Justin and Jonathan and Grandad to Harry, Phoebe, Elena and Lucia.
Now reunited with Beryl in Glory.
Justin Cole, Rowland's eldest son.