The Revd Bob Simpson: 1937-2018
The ministry of a Yorkshire-man gone south - who ended up in the Midlands
Robert John Simpson was born on 10 November 1937. He was the second son of Bertrum and Jenny Simpson, having an older brother, Brian and a younger sister Rita. His dad was a bus driver and his mum
worked as a bakeress.
At the age of 13 Bob moved to Sheffield Central Technical School where he stayed until he was 16. Having decided to take Jesus as his friend at the age of nine Bob was ribbed and ridiculed for his religious scruples during his first year at the technical school, so he decided to fall in with everyone else during his second year, reasoning that he couldn’t live up to the standard God demanded, so why not give up completely. But God had other plans, and Bob had no peace about what he was doing, and so by the start of the third year, he was back on track with God – and living in the power of the Risen Christ.
In 1953 Bob joined the Air Training Corps and in 1954 was presented with his ATC Proficiency B Certificate by Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, something he was very proud of. Over the same period he obtained the Sunday school teachers diploma and passed the Local Preachers Exam – the start of a road into full-time church ministry.
In 1955 Bob became a member of Victoria Hall, Methodist Church in Sheffield, but was called up in May 1956. As Corporal Simpson number 3149642 of the Royal Air Force he was a trained Air Radio Fitter and served his three years in the Far East including Singapore and Malaysia.
While in the Far East he purchased a cine camera and all forms of photography were a passion he maintained throughout his life alongside, Christianity, cricket and carpentry. Bob returned to England in April 1959 and his commanding officer called him someone who was “utterly trustworthy and reliable."
Bob started work as a sales assistant at the Sheffield Photo Company and returned to Victoria Hall Methodist church. At a mid-week bible study there he met a young lady called Doreen who was studying radiography during the week in Sheffield, but hailed from Retford, Nottinghamshire – and was a Baptist. It was not love at first sight - by Doreen’s own admission - but as they spent time with other young people and got involved in missions in other churches, a fledgling friendship grew into love.
Bob moved to Cliff College for a year in 1961 and did well in his biblical studies winning an English and New Testament prize. Following his time there he became a student pastor at Hutton Rudby, North Yorkshire, travelling around on a motorbike despite heavy snowfalls.
Bob and Doreen got married on 16 March 1963 at Retford Baptist Church, whileBob was still at Hutton Rudby, and the village became their first home together. Bob was still a Methodist at this time but knew God was calling him to become a full-time minister, but because of his views on baptism, this could no longer be as a Methodist – so he applied for the Baptist ministry and was himself baptised by full immersion at Retford Baptist Church.
He started training for the Baptist ministry at Northern Baptist College in Manchester in September 1964 and Heather was born in December that year and whilst Bob was studying Doreen lived with her parents in Retford.
Andrew was born in 1966 and so in the final year of his studies the whole family moved to a caretakers flat in the Baptist church in Moss Side Manchester, closer to the college.
During his studies, Bob worked as a student pastor at Mint Street Baptist Church in Lincoln, and they asked him to become their new minister and so the family moved to Lincoln in 1967 following his graduation.
His mode of transport at this time was a Morgan 3 wheeler which could be driven on a motorbike license. Wendy was added to the family in 1970.
In 1971 Bob moved from Lincoln to become the Minister at Woodborough Road Baptist Church in Nottingham. A new church building was being planned and Bob was able to lay the foundation stone of Chase Wood in 1977 before they moved on again to Luton Central Baptist Church.
There were plenty of children around at the time as foster children were a regular feature of the household. So it was a family of seven who moved to Luton with foster brothers George and Sean. During his time at Luton a new building was also established and the previous two church buildings sold, so Bob was not able to just lay a foundation stone, but also enjoy and develop the new facilities for a few years.
During his time at Luton Bob also encouraged and supported other ministers including Stephen Gaukroger and David Hague and in 1981 Keith King joined him as an Associate Minister.
In 1988 Bob’s ministry took him even further south, to Waterlooville Baptist Church just north of Portsmouth. He said himself that God couldn’t take him any further south than that without getting his feet wet! Records show that over the time he was in Waterlooville he baptised 78 people. A former church secretary has written to say “Many church members look back with gratitude, coming to faith and growing through Bob & Doreen’s ministry together.” As he had done in Luton, Bob also encouraged other ministers during his time at the church especially Ken Hyde.
Bob continued his love of photography too and would never miss an opportunity of a good photo. In fact it is well known that if he did miss one, the request was for a re-enactment so he could capture the perfect shot – you can ask any of the family for stories of that.
Bob retired from Waterlooville in 2002 and he and Doreen moved to Newbold Verdon and became members of this church. It was good place to be equidistant from all of their children and grandchildren. He was however not retired for long, for a mere five years, before becoming the minister of this church in 2007, a position he held until he retired for the second time last year in 2017. Many of you were here in June last year when we celebrated Bob’s 80th year, his 50 years in ministry and his 10 years of ministry here.
In ministry terms, Bob was a Yorkshire-man gone south - who ended up in the Midlands.
He never quite made it back to his home town of Sheffield. But he is now home – home with his Saviour, home with his Lord and although he will be missed, greatly missed, we are all better for having known him. A man of Christian conviction – who practiced what he preached and encouraged others to do the same.
I am sure he heard the words from Jesus - Well done, good and faithful servant.
The Revd Mick Leggett, November 2018