The Revd Alan Hellawell BD: 1932-2021
‘Alan was passionate about the gospel and people’
Alan was born on 14 December 1932 into a Baptist family; his father was Sunday School Superintendent at Zion Baptist Church in Slaithwaite – a few miles from the centre of Huddersfield - which the family attended. When the family acquired a grocery store, Alan would help out. He attended Royds Hall Grammar School and was keen on sport, especially football, cricket and tennis. The family were quite musical and Alan’s talent at the piano was encouraged. On leaving school, Alan got a job in the civil service. Then, aged 18, he attended an Easter camp and there he made his own personal decision to follow Jesus Christ and was baptised shortly afterwards at Zion.
It was during national service in Catterick and Cyprus, Alan’s faith blossomed and he sensed a call to Christian ministry. He began training at Rawdon Baptist College in Leeds on a four-year course, obtaining a B.D. Towards the end of his time in Rawdon, he was drawn towards overseas mission with the BMS. After being accepted, he and Jean – who Alan met at Zion - now engaged, went to Selly Oak for training. They were the first engaged couple permitted to get married during training and before going overseas. This marked the beginning of a partnership of devotion to each other and their Lord. After a brief time in India (Orissa, now Odisha), they then returned to England and served remarkably in six churches in the north of England.
In Acomb, York Alan pioneered a church plant 1961 to 1965. In his first news’ sheet, distributed to the community, Alan wrote words which could have been the life text for his ministry, ‘We are just ordinary folk, there is nothing special about us, we aren’t any better than you either… at the same time we are different because we have found out for ourselves that Jesus Christ is alive here and now… it is only because we have found him to be so wonderful that that we want to share him with you.’ It was in York where their sons, Timothy and Jonathan, were born.
Other pastorates followed: Durham 1965 to 1969; Darnell Road, Sheffield 1969 to 1975; Lister Hill, Leeds 1975 to 1986; Wakefield, 1986 to 1992; and Bentley, Doncaster 1992 to 1997. In retirement, Alan and Jean settled back in Huddersfield and were active members in Lockwood Baptist Church. One of his ministries there was to go door-to-door visiting in this multi-faith area.
Alan was a faithful and useful contributor to the wider life of the Yorkshire Baptist Association (YBA). Having attended the first ever YBA Campaign Camp as a teenager in 1954, Alan became very committed, as a minister in Yorkshire, to supporting the work of the camp, encouraging young people to attend and for several years was part of the leadership team and ultimately leader. His skills with the accordion came into use during the open-air evangelistic rallies on the beach in Scarborough south bay.
He not only led young people in evangelism through the work of the camp, but contributed to Association mission thinking and planning by serving as a member of the YBA Commission of Christian Witness, heading up the Evangelism working group of the Commission. Unquestionably, Alan had a deep and lasting engagement with wider Association life, especially in the work of translocal mission, and was loved and appreciated by many beyond the churches he pastored.
At the well-attended celebration of Alan’s life held in Lockwood, there were contributions from each of the churches. Common themes emerged about Alan’s life and his ministry. The Holy Spirit used his ministry in these churches to bring stability, growth and harmony especially in churches that were at a low ebb, facing real challenges. He was a loving attentive pastor, able to relate to all kinds of people, young and old, and from diverse cultural backgrounds. He was an evangelist with a passion for sharing the Gospel, forming strong relationships with people from many nations outside the church and within it. One person testified: ‘Alan gave us the best gift we ever had, to know our Lord Jesus.’ All this ministry was built on the bedrock of his own spirituality as a humble person of prayer. Many of us have been blessed by his ministry of intercession. He was such a great encourager to other people.
On Sunday, 14 November 2021, Alan played the organ in the morning service and afterwards talked to people, offering a word of encouragement with someone who was going to be baptised. Then that afternoon he went peacefully to be with his Lord.
We thank God for this humble servant of Jesus Christ who has left us such a rich legacy inspiring us in our following of Jesus. We remember his family in our prayers – his wife Jean, his sons Timothy and Jonathan, their wives, Catherine and Beate, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Ernie Whalley, March 2022