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A greater picture of God and his kingdom

Peter and Mary Holgate in deep discussion with Graham Bresick at a 1984 Mission & Training Event

By Mary Holgate

A big step

Easter 1981 was a memorable though difficult weekend for Peter and myself. We had been through some heart-searching weeks as we tried to make a major decision regarding our Church affiliation. Our longstanding loyalties to our parents and our local church where we had both served faithfully and wholeheartedly were being tested. Having adopted a very misunderstood approach to being a Believer over the years, I felt I needed to be freed from a legalistic view of Christianity, where I was driven by a desire to please others to be accepted. Peter was always steady and rock solid in his faith, but we both felt a prompting to grow in gaining a greater picture of God and his Kingdom - we felt a move was important for growth in our relationship with the Lord to happen - though there was no blame involved, we were very much afraid of taking a step which, at the time, seemed so big. It was a huge change for us to make, a very emotional thing to decide to leave what was so much part of the fibre of our being. But we were listening to the inner prompting of what we believed was God's Spirit at the time. We had no idea of what the bigger picture would look like. 

Easter 1981

That Easter was our first visit to Christ Church, Kenilworth. It was the time of the Charismatic renewal and that attracted us. We longed for more - there were no great lights flashing, but we wanted the Holy Spirit to have more of us so we came cautiously, but hungry and open to discover and learn more of God and His ways.

After taking that step, through Christ Church, we developed links with the wider parish in early ‘80s. I do remember one thing that was so special to us. The Parish, under David Prior, used to have a Parish Prayer and Praise evening once a month at the Selby Taylor Hall with Chris Dare’s orchestra leading the worship. There was wonderful praise and worship after which David would give some superb teaching from Scripture. Like sponges we soaked it all up! These evenings created a strong a sense of Parish 'connectedness'.  You really felt you belonged to a large Family, which was important in those dark apartheid years. We felt it was a little glimmer of hope opening up a world we knew very little about.  We did not have many other opportunities to mix in that way where everybody was welcomed and we loved it. Difference didn't matter; in fact, Peter had always relished the challenge of "difference"!

A special milestone

The next big thing at St John’s Parish came when we wanted to become more involved in serving should any opportunity arise. We had not been baptised and confirmed as Anglicans, so unfortunately were not allowed to serve in those days. At the time, we had long discussions with Ernie Ashcroft, the Minister in Charge of Christ Church. Eventually, it was decided that our baptism, which had taken place as adults in our previous Church, did not have to be repeated, but we did need to be confirmed by the Archbishop. We agreed to commit ourselves to being Confirmed, recognising it as an opening of a door to serving the Lord. At the time, Bill Burnett was the Archbishop, and he was very warmly understanding of our approach. A person filled with the Holy Spirit, he was loving and uncritical. That loving acceptance really attracted us, as we began to sense the shackles of legalistic bondage falling away. I remember the Sunday night of our confirmation as a very special milestone in my journey with the Lord, along with an understanding of what it meant to be part of St John's Parish.

Passion for mission

At the newly launched AMA conference. Peter second from the left in the back row

Peter’s passion as a Christian was always Mission - particularly Cross Cultural Evangelism. Over the years it seemed as if God brought together his love for the geographical world with its cultures, and a desire to see God's Kingdom spread to where people had never heard the Good News before. David Bosch, the eminent missiologist, was invited to do some teaching with Parish leaders in 1984 (pictured centre and right below). As we became more involved at Christ Church Peter emphasised the whole concept of mission at the leadership level. He felt it needed to extend ‘to the ends of the earth’ and be about word and deed in integral relationship. He worked towards the formation of the Anglican Mission Association (AMA) throughout South Africa. In 1984, he had been sent to South America to observe and participate in the South American Mission Society (SAMS), an Anglican mission originating out of UK. We had not seen much of this happening in Anglican circles in South Africa. The formation of the AMA in 1985 included clergy from all over South Africa –it wasn’t just for St John’s Parish. Bishop David Evans from Peru was a speaker and Revd Bruce Evans played a key part in the conference. The AMA meetings lasted a few days, and I think seeds were planted all over South Africa.  The overall initial interest sadly did not last long in the CPSA, although there were one or two people who followed God's calling on their lives as time marched on. (Picture on the left is from the Holgate's photo album of their visits to Lesotho and Malawi)

Another step of faith

After Duncan McLea had been at Christ Church a while, towards the end of the past century, he once preached about God wanting to move some people out of such a large, successful church, to go elsewhere and build up other churches. This was a clear word to us, and we felt our hearts were being prepared for kingdom expansion.

At the same time, Brian Hill, the Minister of St John’s, was asked by Harry Wiggett, the Minister of St Barnabas in the City Bowl, to come and help him. Someone suggested Brian ask Peter. After prayer we agreed that this was what God wanted us to do - and move out of our comfort. Thus Peter was sent on ‘a mission’ as it were, supported by St John’s Parish, who also gave us a house to live in. After 18 months of working along side Harry Wiggett, Peter was asked to take on St Barnabas as the full time incumbent as Harry was due to retire. Peter said that this was the hardest decision he ever was asked to make. He had never felt called to be a minister in the Church. He was a teacher primarily but always felt he should serve God wherever He was working and if there was something He needed Peter to do alongside Him, he would (gladly!) obey. At that time he was 63 or 64 years old - about to retire himself!

Priested at 65

However, we prayed together, always open to hear what God wanted of us and agreed that we should be obedient. But (there was one proviso!) - not if it meant having to go to College in Grahamstown at that stage of his life. (He had previously studied theology at the London Bible College and also had obtained a Masters in Missiology at an overseas university). Peter prayed that God would waive all the requirements of going to Anglican college, if he wanted him to go to St Barnabas. Bishop Christopher Gregorowski and other clergy interviewed him and to our surprise agreed he would be ordained, with the understanding that he would refer to another Clergyman in the City Bowl to learn about 'things Anglican'! A minister was assigned to teach Peter all the Anglican 'regulations'. Thankfully, Joan Evans (the widow of the late Bruce Evans) lent him a book about all the Anglican rituals, practices and meanings behind them. Peter was ordained in the June of 2004 and priested in September of the same year - when he was 65! In trepidation we made the move as God's picture became clearer.

Our years at St Barnabas were very happy. Peter was a man who was always eager to encourage others and seek to build them up. He never had any ambition to be a leader 'upfront', but was always eager to encourage others to find their fulfilment and potential for God's kingdom. That passion along with a love for teaching God's Word, was what kept him serving when things were tough in those City Bowl years.

Getting to know and love the people of St John's

180th Anniversary of St John's communion by Revds Duncan McLea, Ben Aldous, Peter Holgate, Keith Griffiths

When Peter was 70, I had my first heart attack.  Six months later, Peter felt he needed to definitely retire. Andrew Gready was Minister in Charge at St John’s when Peter was at St Barnabas. When Peter retired from St Barnabas, the Parish asked him to help Andrew Gready for three days a week in his retirement. We always did everything for the Lord together, so we went to help Andrew Gready. When he left and another minister was being found for St Johns, Peter looked after the Church for 18 months in the Interim before Ben Aldous came. In that time, we really got to love the people of St John’s, grew to know them, and were involved with everything, as we were able.


We did not see it coming

Several years later Peter had pain in his chest that led to him being admitted to hospital for a quadruple bypass. Three specialists felt he would recover well, but he never came out of ICU, instead living 9 days after surgery, but gradually growing weaker. He was 77 when he died. There was a big service at St John’s on 27th May 2017 taken by Ben Aldous and Duncan McLea. I think that everyone was shocked at this sudden turn of events. The love and care of friends at St Johns was our mainstay and strength at a dark and numbing time. Death wasn’t what we were expecting and no ones else saw it coming. I was quite stunned, numb, but in retrospect so thankful that Peter didn’t suffer and I have such happy memories of our life together. At the time I said I was not leaving St John’s, as I didn’t want to start all over somewhere else, so I remained there, enjoying my friends at St Johns. They will always be "special" for a number of reasons. 

Bridges of love

St John’s has had its ups and downs over the years, and things have not always been as planned. In one of these recent difficult periods, the idea of ‘bridges’ came into play. There had some very upsetting events in the Community, and I wanted to respond in a Biblical way. I prayed in my own devotions and asked the Lord, “What should be done to bring wholeness to the Body? What can I do?” Into my mind came a picture of a blackboard with the word, ‘Bridge’ written on it in white chalk. As I reflected I thought of a bridge joining two sides together - two different sides – diverse - but with so much to give to each other and enrich community.  As reflections continued, I realised that Jesus was a Bridge linking the world and God. We had so much to give and receive from each other, with our diversity. Diversity with forgiveness and love became my driving thoughts. Was God saying He wanted to unite us at St Johns with the "Bridge of his Love?"


And so over a number of weeks at Church we were reminded of a variety of bridges found across the world, which have different qualities in their construction, but which are used to bring two groups of people together, or facilitate ease and comfort in the ongoing flow of life and purpose. Would we be part of the Bridge we needed to build at St Johns?

Easter 2022

At Easter 2022, I shared about bridge-building at St Johns. I will conclude simply with the final paragraph of that talk,

“As we approach Easter the cross is a reminder that Jesus not only lived a fair, just life, but supremely acted as the Bridge between us and our Loving Creator, giving His life, and then rising again in order to bring all of us into a safe, secure relationship with Him - this was not just in this life, but for all eternity! We can all be a bridge just where we are placed. May we never forget that there is unity in diversity.”


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