Saturday, 16 October 2010

"a train is a fire going in one direction"

I attended the memorial service for Ian R Smith (6 Mar 1948- 29 July 2009) at St Oswald's Church, Fulford, York. He was a great railway enthusiast, as well an Area Secretary for CMS, before going on to be General Secretary for CMS Ireland.

You can read more on CMS Ireland's announcement of his death last year

He was a colleague and friend, who had visited us in Karachi in the mid eighties. I remember his enthusiasm for trains nearly got him arrested. He was driving the Mirpurkhas narrow gauge steam train to the Indian border, on the foot-plate playing Ilkley Moor bar 't'at on the train whistle. Therefore on the return the military check post assumed he'd come from over the border. He had a lot of explaining to do......

His family shared movingly about his life through clips and quotes from friends. His son talked about his unswerving hope (Heb 10:23) and how as a stranger and pilgrim he did not receive everything promised but welcomed them from afar (Heb 11:13)

Simon Barrington Ward previous Gen Sec of CMS Britain and former Bishop of Coventry
spoke of his vibrant faith and commitment to the gospel, his role in General Synod and his advocacy of the plight of Christians in Sudan. He finished his address by quoting Robert Browning's poem 'epilogue'

But it was a short film clip 'One Direction' made by Rev Chris Bennett of Holywood Parish Church for Ian's funeral, which will remain with me. It was a powerful image of a life of passion committed to a lifetime of service. And whilst Ian was passionate indeed about trains, it was the gospel that really fired his engine...

"A train is a fire going in one direction"

He wrote a number of railway books, but also a book of his travels in the Middle East, when part of CMS, called A Case of Confidence (2005)

He went looking for vibrant Christian faith in an area of the world where Christians were rapidly leaving. (partly inspired by William Dalrymple's classic 'From the Holy Mountain') And of course because of his enthusiasm and energy, he found many inspiring Christians and managed to communicate their stories in a simple compelling way....

That was part of his gift. Inspiring confidence in the good news of God's love to all he met....

I finish with a prayer written by his wife Carol

Let us remember Ian and thank God for
His life, his love and his gifts
For his cheerfulness and his smile;
His enthusiasm and his flair;
His love of life, and ability to live it to the full;
His love of the natural world, and railways too;
for his gift of friendship; his sense of fun;
His passion for the gospel;
His clear, faithful preaching;
His yearning to share the good news with others;
His love and concern for his brothers and sisters
throughout the worldwide church;
And his love for his family;
We thankyou God

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