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Peter Rowell (1933-2015)

February 2016 | by Paul Watts

Peter Rowell was born into a godly family in Huntingdon. Both his father and grandfather were pastors.

In 1952 he went to Nottingham University to study physics. It was, for him, a time of deepening spiritual conviction, and he was baptised by his father, in Rochdale, the following year.

Physics lecturer

He graduated from Nottingham and went to do a DPhil in low temperature physics at Oxford. He became a lecturer in physics at Nottingham University from 1958-1965, but during this period felt the call to preach and began an itinerant ministry in the Midlands and north of England.
He gradually realised God was calling him to full-time ministry and ended his academic career to become pastor of Rehoboth Chapel, Coventry, in 1965.

In 1957 Peter married Kathleen and eight children were born. The family home was lively and hospitable. Sadly, Stephen, the eldest, died in a motorcycle accident just after his 21st birthday.

Before this there had been a particularly difficult time in church life, which brought Peter to breaking point. He preached on the Sunday following Stephen’s death and there was a real sense of the Lord’s presence.

Profound experience

These experiences had a profound effect on his ministry both as a preacher and pastor. His had always been a deeply feeling ministry, but now became even more so, especially in preaching the gospel.

He ministered for 18 years in Coventry, and then was called to Forest Fold Baptist Chapel in Crowborough, where he served as pastor for 24 years, before his retirement.

Peter was in some ways a reserved man, but took seriously the injunction of 1 Peter 5:2, ‘Shepherd the flock of God which is among you’. He carried the flock in his heart as a man of prayer. In times of personal need he was deeply sympathetic and understanding. Above all, he lived out the message he preached.

His preaching was warm, expository, doctrinal, serious and Christ-centred. He was a Bible man; he believed in stating our faith clearly and doctrinally, and preaching the application of God’s Word to our lives. 

He loved and fed the lambs in the flock, as well as the sheep. He was gentle with little ones in the family and the faith.

Peter’s ministry was very fruitful. Many were converted and built up in their faith. Particularly striking is the number of men called to preach during his pastorates.

For many years he was editor of the magazine Gospel Tidings. He also wrote a biography of Stanley Delves, his predecessor at Forest Fold.

Family man

Peter enjoyed many of God’s gifts in life. He loved grand scenery, especially the mountains and lochs of Scotland, and enjoyed walking. He loved science and knowledge, and was a good handyman too.

He loved and prayed for his children and their spouses, his grandchildren and wider family. In a recent email to one of his sons he wrote, ‘I often think of the verse, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, happy is the man who has his quiver full of them”.’

Paradoxically, he was a man who often felt he struggled. His sensitivity made him feel things deeply. He felt that, during much of his life, he was to contend for the faith against an unhealthy traditionalism on the one hand and doctrinal slippage on the other.

For the last years of his life he struggled with increasing weakness from cancer. All those struggles are now over and we believe he has heard the wonderful words, ‘Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord’.

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