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Andrew Ireland Remembered

Wednesday 13 July 2011, 15:07
By John Baxter

Reverend Andrew Ireland, Wincanton's Baptist MinisterThe Reverend Andrew Ireland. Wincanton's Baptist Minister. Born 29-7-54. Died 2-7-11

Andrew died peacefully last Friday night in Verrington Hospital as he had planned after months dealing with cancer. His wife Cathryn was by his side. As it became clear that his illness would be terminal he faced it with clear-eyed courage, openness and faith mentioning it in the article he had written for us. After receiving that article I had quite a long telephone conversation with him in which he assured me he was not in physical pain, but felt extremely tired. What did pain him was thinking about Cathryn and his children, but he also had a strong sense of the divine presence with him and with them.

Andrew has been a full-time Baptist Minister since 1996, and he came with Cathryn and their children Matthew and Luke to Wincanton in October 2009. He had previously served a congregation at Stockwood on the edge of Bristol for five years.

Originally from Wales, where he graduated from Caerleon College, Andrew spent 16 very happy years as a teacher of mathematics and athletics at Llantwit Major School. He was an enthusiastic and able athlete, and he specialised in running "anything from 800 to 10,000 metres". He also coached athletic teams in and beyond the school in middle distance running, high jump and other disciplines up to national level.

Then, as he put it, God intervened and while attending an evangelical conference at Minehead with Cathryn who at that stage he felt was more deeply committed than he was, he "felt God's presence" and was struck with the conviction that he should leave teaching, extricate himself from athletics and train for full-time ministry. This he did, spending the next three years at the South Wales Baptist College in Cardiff.

Andrew and Cathryn have seen their ministry here flourish and as something to share. She has been quick to get involved as a governor at Wincanton Primary School where her presence has been much appreciated. While Free Church and evangelical in style and theology, Andrew has come across as open, reflective, ready to work with clergy and members of other churches or none and has shown himself determined to make a positive contribution to the broader life of the community, as well as build up his congregation.

The impact he has made here is well expressed by the decision to have his memorial service not in the Baptist Church, but in the town's much more spacious Catholic Church on Thursday July 14th at 2 pm. Father Louis who got to know Andrew well has told me how sorry he is to be missing it for he will be on retreat in France. Andrew will be sorely missed.


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