|Donald and I at Fuller Baptist Church, Kettering|
Way back in 1987 I was inducted as Donald’s assistant at Fuller Baptist Church Kettering – this was my ‘first’ church and it was to be the most beneficial of ‘curacies’.
It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that Donald MacKenzie was Scottish! He was a brilliant academic, well trained at Edinburgh University, yet he never paraded his learning. Instead he was a ‘story-teller’ preacher – and how I just loved his sermons! I’ve never heard anyone preach with such warmth and grace as Donald – he was for me the Alistair Cooke of the pulpit. He could take the most obscure passage and difficult theology and ‘ground’ it in an understandable way – bringing it to life with heart warming illustrations. And in it all something of Donald’s quiet and deep integrity shone through. I believe I had the great good fortune to be apprenticed to one of the best preachers in Britain (a title he would never have given himself in a million years!)
Donald and I spent hours talking. He told me stories of ministerial life from the 60’s and 70’s – we chatted through church life and I learnt, just by listening, how to deal with tricky problems and people – and in it all during those five precious years there were so many times of smiling and laughter.
When I moved on to my first ‘solo’ pastorate in Hitchin in 1992 I cannot tell you how many times I thought: ‘What would Donald do?’ – In fact I’ve been asking myself that question on and off for the last twenty one years since leaving Fuller.
In life we sometimes are blest with walking alongside someone who reminds us of our Lord. A person whose words, actions or just mere presence makes the deepest and most positive impression on our own journey. I had that experience between 1987-1992 – five years that formed me as a Minister of Word and Sacrament – five years serving alongside the wisest mentor a young minister could ever have.
As this year draws to a close I thank God for Donald – the best of colleagues who now dwells in the nearer presence of the Saviour he served with such grace and gentle eloquence.
My dear friend – may you rest in peace and rise in glory.