In generations past, at least in Wales, we venerated our preaching stars — the ‘pulpit princes’, whose appearance at special events could always draw a crowd.
In yet earlier generations, however, men of great talent gave themselves largely to serving a local church. In some humble ‘Bethel’ or ‘Calvary’ they would delight in the ordinary duties of ministry and yet find time for significant works of theology, or history, or hymnology.
It was to this tradition that Geraint Fielder belonged, as a man born out of due time. Mr Fielder was born in Gorseinon near Swansea, and brought up in an evangelical household, which attended Caersalem Evangelical Church in the town.
Educated locally and at Swansea University, in 1960 he prepared for ordination at Aberystwyth Presbyterian College. After serving with the IVF (Inter-Varsity Fellowship — now UCCF: The Christian Unions), he became minister of Whitefield Presbyterian Church, Abergavenny, from 1968 until 1980.
Mr Fielder worked independently until he joined the leadership team at Highfields Evangelical Church in Cardiff in 1987, retiring in 1999 but continuing to preach regularly until 2004.
He might have made his life as an historian, the subject he studied both at undergraduate and postgraduate level. He also might have made his way as a professional writer. His initial project was to ghost-write Francis Schaeffer’s first book, Escape from reason (1966), using notes at a conference of Schaeffer’s talks taken by IVF general secretary Oliver Barclay.
His later writings were a history of student work in Wales (Excuse me Mr Davies, Hallelujah!, 1983), then of the British UCCF (Lord of the years, 1988), followed by a history of the Presbyterian Church of Wales Forward Movement (Grace, grit and gumption, 2000).
His last publication indicated yet another direction Geraint might have taken. Lifelines, published in 2005, was a collection of his well received broadcast talks.
He also sat on the editorial board of The Evangelical Magazine [of Wales] from 1971 until 1987, and then served as a consulting editor until 2003.
Nor were these his only talents. He was a creditable musician; a humourist who could see the absurd in life, and a warmly appreciated pastor. He was twice a chaplain — at a mental hospital and later at Usk prison. And, of course, he was a preacher. His sermons were always a compelling blend of theological depth, spiritual challenge and insight into human realities.
Even his spiritual history speaks of a man destined for more than ordinary things. Mr Fielder was converted when the Welsh evangelist David Shepherd brought to Gorseinon an unknown American evangelist in 1946, Billy Graham.
Billy Graham personally counselled the 11-year-old Geraint and challenged him to go on to faithful service for Jesus Christ. While a student, Mr Fielder habitually became chairman of the various student societies he joined, most notably the British Theological Students’ Fellowship, always a significant appointment in IVF circles.
When he followed Elwyn Davies as the Welsh travelling secretary for IVF, he was soon noticed as a significant figure by such luminaries as Sir Fred Catherwood and Professor Donald Wiseman.
Yet, for all this, Mr Fielder was a man of remarkable humility, who hardly mentioned his achievements, let alone promoted himself through them. He was, in the best sense of the phrase, a sweet and catholic evangelical. Anyone who loved the gospel was loved by Mr Fielder, as many whose lives were touched by him can testify.
He died in his sleep on Monday 14 May, after a long and debilitating battle with Parkinson’s disease, borne with courage and dignity. He is survived by Mary, his wife of 50 years, and his four children Martyn, Robert, David and Cherry.
This article was first published in The Evangelical Magazine and is used here with kind permission.