300-400 people gathered in Bethel Baptist Chapel, Aberystwyth, on Saturday 14 November to acknowledge God’s goodness to Geoff Thomas, in sparing him for 50 years of ministry in Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberystwyth. The furthest visitor came from Germany. Others came from Inverness, London, Yorkshire and South Wales.
Fellowship in ministry
Geoff sought to give a God-honouring account of himself, mentioning, among other things, what a blessing the university students had been, and attempting to list those who, like one of his sons-in-law Gary Brady, had later gone into the ministry — men like Austin Walker, Chris Peggington, Graham Heaps, Keith Underhill, Keith Hoare, Alan Davey and Tim Mills. 28 men in all, he could recount, and some were married to women students who had been in the church.
Gary Brady writes: ‘In recent years Geoff has become good friends with Joel Beeke of Grand Rapids and it was fine to have him present to preach for the weekend.
‘Joel spoke that Saturday afternoon from 2 Corinthians 6:8-10: “In purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything”.
‘On the theme of “Recognising the paradox of ministry”, he spoke on rejoicing in the paradox of knowing God has called you to be his servant and minister the simple gospel to simple people, in simple truth. It did me good, and many others I hope.’
Fellowship in service
‘We then adjourned to Alfred Place for refreshments. This was managed extraordinarily well by a family connected to the church. This was in the church basement. After an hour we headed upstairs, where a number of men spoke in a meeting chaired by myself.
‘Austin Walker from Crawley began by recalling what help he had received from Geoff as a student, before heading off to Westminster Seminary (shortly to be followed there by Keith Underhill). He was the first of several to “choke up” a little. Richard Holst of Cardiff told of the backing he received from Geoff in taking a stand in the Welsh Presbyterian Church for the 1823 Confession of Faith.
‘David Griffiths of OMF was sweetly emotional describing what a help Geoff’s little booklet on Killing remaining sin had been for a Filipino suffering with AIDS. Gareth Edwards spoke on his own behalf and for the Evangelical Movement of Wales. Michael Keen spoke on behalf of the Aberystwyth church, a moving tribute to the influence of God’s Word on him and his family.
‘Meirion Thomas spoke, full of hilarity and warm affection. Dr Robert Strivens had a brilliant story of Geoff jump-starting his car at a Banner Conference when he was a young and diffident minister. Dr Strivens also brought a gift of a book of Calvin’s sermons on Titus, signed affectionately by the Banner of Truth trustees.’
Fellowship in worship
Then the next day, Sunday, many folk stayed on, so the church was very full, with several hundred people; 22 of Geoff Thomas’ wider family were there.
A church tea was held at 4.00pm. The elders had invited our sister congregation, the Welsh Evangelical Church with their pastor Derrick Adams, to join us. A delicious jubilee cake had been inscribed with the text, ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’. There was a short speech of thanks from Geoff, and a gift of flowers for Iola and apple picker for the pastor.
Joel Beeke preached on Hebrews 12:1-2 in the morning and Luke 22:31-32 in the evening. Christ is the one who meets all our needs, as prophet, priest and king. Later, 30 of us, especially students, packed into the manse front room, where Dr Beeke answered questions until folk left at 10.45pm.