Peter Naylor (1936-2007)
Around midday on 15August I answered the telephone to hear a voice saying, ‘This is Peter Naylor from a hospital in Stirling. I have an inoperable heart condition and have only a few days to live. I would like you to take the funeral service and I want you to preach the gospel, not to talk about me. One of the hymns is to be “A safe stronghold our God is still”’.
In those final painful hours, Peter’s faith was radiant. He knew where he was going – and the medical team knew that he knew where he was going!
During Friday evening 17August he went to be with the Lord. The funeral, or rather thanksgiving service, was held at Kettering on 31August.
I was last with him in June when I took the services at Pollard Evangelical Church in Kettering and he was in the congregation. I preached from Romans 5. Afterwards he came to me rather excitedly, ‘I’ve been studying the second part of that chapter all afternoon and was so taken up with it I was nearly late!’ That was Peter – a student to the last.
Just hours before he died a surgeon said to him, ‘That’s a strange book you’re reading’. ‘It’s my New Testament in Greek’, he answered. In his private Bible reading Peter almost always read from the original Hebrew or Greek.
Peter was born in London in June 1936. His mother was an operatic soloist and his father a sailor. When Peter was young the family moved to Devon, where he was educated at Tiverton Grammar School.
He joined the RAF with the ambition of becoming a fighter pilot, but a final test showed that his reactions were not fast enough. He had a dramatic conversion experience during the relay of a sermon preached by Billy Graham and, returning to London, joined East Finchley Baptist Church where he met Barbara Maylett. They were married in August 1960 immediately after Peter’s graduation at the London Bible College. They were to have two daughters and four grandchildren.
The first pastorate, commencing in 1963, was at Eye in Suffolk. Several of those converted at this time, principally through his teaching in young people’s meetings, came to the thanksgiving service, testifying to the good received through his ministry.
During his time at Eye he added an MTh to his BD and took advantage of a six-month scholarship to Jerusalem furthering his Hebrew studies. Peter and Barbara moved to Beccles in 1971, remaining there for six years.
His third and last church was at Wellingborough, from 1971 until his retirement in 2001.
Peter was a private man. Even on committee (he was on the Strict Baptist Historical Committee for a number of years) he was often slow to express his thoughts on the subject under discussion and in later years rarely attended conferences.
He lectured widely in biblical studies, including in India and Sri Lanka. His sermons were doctrinal and orderly, delivered with an economy of words and enriched with his understanding of the biblical background. His decided views on restricted communion, on the place of the moral law in the life of the believer, and on the cessation of charismatic gifts were all derived from exhaustive study.
Supremely, Peter Naylor was a scholar. In 2001 he was awarded a PhD for a study in 18th century Particular Baptist history which was subsequently published. His other writings include commentaries for Evangelical Press on 1 and 2 Corinthians, and an as yet unpublished 800-page commentary on Ezekiel.