Re: Baptists have paid tribute to the Revd Dr Joel Edwards
There were not many black Scottish Baptist College-trained NAMs serving within the Scottish Baptist Union at the turn of the Millennium, when Revd Joel Edwards came over the border to speak at our Annual Ministers' conference held at St Andrews inside the red Sand stone Halls of Residence, overlooking the world-renown R and A Club House and manicured greens.
In fact, whilst memory still serves me, I was for that memorable week, the only Baptist 'minister of colour' (what a terrible tag to wear!) in attendance at the conference; even though my esteemed Scottish colleagues, after years at Aytoun Rd Common Room had stitched other labels on me which I still display with holy pride! On the opening day, I happily convinced myself that it was all for my sake, and for the right balance, that Joel had been invited to be our main speaker that year - "to make 'the Big man' feel at home after 4 years, in his own larger crowd of two for these next three days when we are together here".
However, it was immediately clear. Having studied with and was at that moment ministering among the deeply theological, and altogether impressive Scottish colleagues this was a culmination of hopeful expectation that Rev J. Edwards would someday find time in his hectic schedule to come over, north of the border. I was simply one of the very few (I shouldn't use the awful reference, 'lucky'); yes, 'immensely blessed', to have been present when JE finally came.
It is a fact widely acknowledged, that recent graduates of any Theological College/Seminary, do only consider well-argued, scholarly lectures worth listening to for a period slightly longer than a day. Among the SB ministers, I am happy to attest that this indisputable dictum is very often taken far more seriously. It was therefore very clear within the opening session, and from the record numbers registered to attend, that Edwards had been well-researched on his Baptist audience.
By the end of conference, the ministers, hesitant to return to our own disparate Seaside, Central-belt and City centre communities; and most irregular indeed, no longer spoke of the excellent quality of the meals the University staff provided us with during our stay. Instead, all were more prepared to live off the lasting nourishment of the far richer banquet that had been hosted by Joel, whose own renown is now firmly and eternally established. The following year's conference would live up to its usual billing - it was good to come again, even if just for the university's regular holiday menu and the immortalised sands that still enthral!
George Ayoma, minister, Trinity Baptist Church, Fleetwood, Lancashire
I had the privilege of working with Joel Edwards, well before he was a household name. He was prominent in EA's evangelical support for South Africa from 87- 97. We formed ESSA following Caesar Molebatsi's presentation of the 86 Concerned Evangelicals document from South Africa at Spring Harvest.
I had been mandated by Frontier Youth Trust to find a way of creating an involvement in the Anti Apartheid dilemma. This seemed the opportunity. I approached Clive Calver and we drew together a group of activists including fellow Baptists at the time, Raj Patel, Evangelical Christians for Racial Just, Steve Rand from Tearfund, and myself. Joel was the obvious Black Pentecostal, still a part time probation officer and General Secretary of Afro Caribbean Evangelical Alliance. He travelled to to South Africa with Raj and Chris Sugden - a true multi racial trio.
Later he introduced me to Carver Anderson, a social worker and part time pastor, now founding director of Bringing Hope. Joel introduced us to young people who then became part of the Through Different Eyes group who visited Soweto, South Africa over Christmas 90/1.
No matter how long it had been Joel would greet me with that massive smile and big hug. Go well bro.
Arkle Bell, Albany Road Baptist Church, Cardiff