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News – Derek Swann (1927-2007)

January 2008 | by Eryl Davies

Derek Swann (1927-2007)

Rev. Derek Swann went to be with the Lord on 29 October 2007. And he was eager to go too. He shared with family and friends in the final weeks that he had such great joy and peace; and longed to be with Christ.

The funeral service was held at Heath Evangelical Church, Cardiff; the large congregation included many pastors. Graham Harrison led the service in the absence of the pastor, Wyn Hughes, who was in Africa. Peter Golding, a close friend, gave a tribute.

A native of Cardiff, Derek attended Wood Street Congregational Church. There were early indications of God stirring and inclining him towards the ministry. Later, after one year in Trefeca College, he did national service.

Conversion

He then studied at Cardiff University and was converted in the 1949 Swanwick IVF Students Conference. Here he was persuaded of the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.

It was in the Welsh IVF Students Conference (1953) that Derek was greatly helped by Dr Lloyd-Jones’s ministry on the sovereignty of God in salvation: ‘I was so overcome with the wonder of it all that I had to fight back the tears. For many of us since, election has been an affair of the heart as well as the head’.

His involvement in IVF (now UCCF) was extensive and he became chairman of the Theological Students Fellowship and later a member of the IVF Literature Committee.

Derek was president of the Cardiff CU before going to Brecon Memorial College for ministerial training. In 1955 he accepted a call to Ebenezer Congregational Church, Pontnewydd. Although not an evangelical church, a number of people were soon converted and other Christians who moved into the area joined to establish a solid gospel work. It was during this first pastorate that Derek and Ceinwen were married.

 

Ashford

In February 1963, he became pastor of Ashford Congregational Church (Middlesex), where he remained until April 1991. Although known as an evangelical church, there were internal tensions concerning the Arminian/Calvinist divide and attendance at the church prayer meeting was poor.

Derek’s preaching through Colossians was for the congregation like the ‘balm of Gilead’ and the work was significantly blessed – including the conversion of several wives.

Externally, moves for merging some denominations were well advanced in the early 1960s. The Congregational Union of England and Wales was joining with the Presbyterian Church of England to become the United Reformed Church. But Derek was a convinced Congregationalist, as well as a paedobaptist.

He had been a member of the Congregational Evangelical Revival Fellowship and longed to see a powerful move of the Holy Spirit in revival among these churches. But the new merger ignored gospel principles and introduced a centralised system of government.

At stake for him was the authority of Scripture. He helped others, therefore, in the formation of the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches (EFCC) in 1967 and brought his church into it on the key issue of the authority Scripture. There followed, providentially, a period of blessing in the Ashford church.

 

Barnabas

Derek Swann served on EFCC’s main committee for years and helped found the Congregational Studies Conference. More than anything, he was a gospel man and a pastor who loved people. His warmth, graciousness and spirituality endeared him to many. His Barnabas-type ministry was exercised to the end and many will miss it.

Retiring in April 1991, Derek and Ceinwen settled in Cardiff to be near their children and their families. His itinerant preaching developed and he became involved in the EMW Theological Training Course at Bryntirion.

He assumed responsibility for training and caring for pastors within EFCC and for years continued to enjoy a wide fellowship at such occasions as the Westminster Fellowship and EMW Bala Ministers’ Conference.

Dr Eryl Davies

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