A Service of Thanksgiving for the Life of John Charles Chapman
Managed to negotiate an early fulfilment of practical work duties to be at Chappo’s memorial service at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate last Friday, to remember the man who, through his talks and writings, was a great help to me in my first years as a Christian.
William Taylor of St. Helen’s Bishopsgate led the service, Richard Simpkin struck up the organ for Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son, Dick Lucas* spoke about the man himself citing 7 characteristics that widened his appeal and enabled him to reach his generation with the gospel:
- he was a practical (woodworking, knitting) man,
- a man of culture who sang on national radio,
- a sportsman who liked to win,
- a politician for the cause of Christ,
- a true friend who was at every meeting where he could be a brother to brothers,
- a man of keen intelligence – swiftness of repartee, a unique capacity for searching out the heart of the matter, unsentimental realism, with brilliant shafts of humour,
- he was a supreme communicator whose skills amounted to a kind of genius.
Dick recounted how car journeys with Chappo were dangerous since both Dick and Rico Tice, on separate occasions, could scarcely drive for laughing. God must have been given the unique ability of humour to Chappo in part to blow away the preposterous notion that the glorious gospel of Christ means the oppression of all the goodness of life as God has made it.
What God called John to be and do required him to have a daily dependence on God. His writings tell of both the struggles and joys of a Christian. His was a down-to-earth godliness that told no lies and avoided all precious piety.
Chappo was unquestionably a social animal. His singleness enabled him be out night after night gospelling and to travel round the world, which would have made family responsibilities difficult. But he needed and loved his friends and they too held him with warm affection.
Chappo was also a fine preacher. Peter Jensen recounted how a friend he had brought to listen to Chappo commented what a great passage had been preached, instead of being fascinated by the power and personality of the preacher. It wasn’t that the power and personality of the preacher had been downplayed, but that the power and personality of the preacher had become a servant of the passage he was expounding – so that the hearer was focused on the word of God, not on the servant by whom the word had come. With such a strong personality, it would have been easy for Chappo to have gathered disciples to himself, but Chappo used his strengths and gifts in such a way that they pointed to the true Master rather than himself.
There was the organ again for Crown Him With Many Crowns. Then Richard Bewes read Romans 1:1-17. Hugh Palmer of All Souls Langham Place gave the address (after noting that they had run out of “Reverend Prebendaries” but that they still had the Bible). He quoted Phillip Jensen who said at the Thanksgiving Service at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney that if you remembered nothing but warmth and personality and stories from Chappo’s sermons, you must have missed the point – Chappo’s message was Jesus. He kept the gospel and the need for repentance clear. More in the video above.
Rose Illingsworth, accompanied by Simpo on the piano, sang John Newton’s Amazing Grace beautifully, which induced not a few sniffles and some surreptitious wiping of eyes and noses. Justin Mote of St. Andrew’s Leyland gave the prayers. We sang Go, forth and tell! O Church of God, awake!, then William gave the closing prayer.
People commented afterwards that tea and cake was just what Chappo would have enjoyed. But the absence of uproarious laughter in the building made it quite clear that he would not be partaking of any more of that repast in this life.
Was introduced to a friend’s pastor, Vaughan Roberts of St. Ebbe’s Oxford, whom I’d unceremoniously shoved a Bible at during the sermon. And was helping someone else look for Jonathan Fletcher, lately of Emmanuel Wimbledon. It was great to have so many of whom God has used to help our generation of Christians in Singapore know more about him under one roof. Just to list a few resources: Dick and William’s sermons, Rico’s Christianity Explored course, David Jackman’s sermons and training sessions, Vaughan’s many books (God’s Big Picture, God’s Big Design, Distinctives), Justin’s study notes on the Gospel of Mark, Michael You’s study notes on the Gospel of Luke etc… and from many of the Sydney brethren who were quoted: Peter Jensen’s At The Heart of the Universe, Phillip Jensen’s sermons…
Yet the urge was not to race around collecting photographs and autographs but to thank God that he has given us faithful teachers and preachers to equip the saints for ministry.
*they were apparently very good friends and there were several stories about their escapades during driving holidays in France – told before the service