By Julian Rowlandson, Special to ASSIST News Service
READING, UK (ANS — September 8, 2015) — My father, Maurice Rowlandson, passed away on Thursday, August 13, 2015, just two days before his 90th birthday. He was a key figure in the life of the UK evangelical church over a number of decades, and will be remembered by many for his work, character and faith.
Dad trained as a surveyor and worked for the borough surveyor in Wembley before joining the family print and stationery firm, Chas Davey. However, his heart was always in Christian work and in 1946 joined Hildenborough Hall working with Tom Rees.
It was while working with Tom that he first came into contact with Dr. Billy Graham, a meeting which resulted in an opportunity to study at Northwestern Bible College in Minneapolis. During his time in the US, Dad met his future wife, Marilyn.
When he returned to Britain, Dad joined the evangelical uniformed youth organisation The Campaigners, which had been founded by Rev. Colin Kerr, in the role as Boys Administrative Officer.
Two years later, he moved to the Evangelical Alliance as Extensions Secretary. While working at the EA, he was involved in many initiatives, one of which was to take Christian films into prisons and to the British forces in Europe. He would comment that he had been in and out of every prison in the country!
Dad always had an eye for how technology could help spread the Gospel and in 1954 he planned and organised 2000 land line relays across the country to allow the meetings from the Billy Graham Glasgow Crusade to be seen across the UK. In the modern world of Skype the scale of this project doesn’t seem too great but in 1954 this was really leading edge and typifies Dad’s approach to a tough challenge. The words ‘it can’t be done’ only ever seemed to spur him on to find a solution. Dad revisited this concept in a modern context when he acted as co-ordinator for the Livelink and Global Mission satellite relays of Dr Graham’s crusades in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Dad was serving as Extensions Secretary at the Evangelical Alliance when he was appointed to the team running Dr Billy Graham’s first crusade in England. It was the biggest evangelism venture ever; more than a million people attended events spanning three months.
Seven years later, Dad became Director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association UK, and he held this position until 1987. During this time, Dad organised 23 major mission events in cities including Manchester, Glasgow, Belfast, London, Norwich, Blackpool and Sheffield. Dad was known for his networking abilities, enthusiasm and leadership. Thousands of people came to faith at the events.
A visit to Explo 72, a youth training event in Dallas, gave him the vision to see a similar event held in the UK. From this came his organisation SPRE-E 73 a conference for young people, which drew 10,000 attendees from across the UK. Working with Campus Crusade the delegates learnt the principals of sharing their faith before having the opportunity to go out onto the streets of London to put what they had learnt into practice. The event was supported by the Billy Graham Association with Dr Graham speaking at each of the evening rallies.
Dad wrote two books relating to his time with the Billy Graham team. ‘I’m Going to Ask you to Get Out of Your Seat’ brings together the testimonies of a number of people who responded to the ministry of Dr Graham in the UK. His second book ‘Life with Billy’ is Dad’s personal memories of working with the Association for over 35 years. Many of these recollections were expanded in a regular series of articles on the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net).
During his time at the Billy Graham Association he organised a number of tours. These included 15 trips to the Holy Land and to Billy Graham Crusades in other parts of the world.
From 1979 until 1992, Dad was General Secretary of the Keswick Convention, and his book ‘Life at Keswick’ shares his experience of co-ordinating the ministry of Keswick. His time as Secretary included the visit of Dr Graham to the convention, the building of the new convention offices and having to cope with the potential disaster when the main tent was destroyed by storms during the second week of the convention in 1988.
Dad loved sailing and founded the Venturers Norfolk Broads Cruise, an annual week-long Christian sailing camp for young people. Generations of teenagers have taken the part in the camp, which has now been running for 70 years. Over these years the Cruise has mixed Dad’s love of sharing the gospel with his love of sailing. It is a tribute to Dad that the cruise today is run by a team that started as youngsters on the cruise and recognise the unique blend of personal and spiritual challenges that the young people experience during the week.
Dad held positions on several charities: as well as his involvement with Venturers, he was chairman of TransWorld Radio and a trustee of Walk Through the Bible.
He once contested a Parliamentary seat for the Liberal Party, in 1959. Was an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve earning himself the Reserve Decoration and was a magistrate for 27 years. Dad was even an Associate Member of the Inner Magic Circle, and conjuring was one of his great loves.
The example my father set for us to follow was meaningful and authentic. He taught us to look for solutions and to be positive in our outlook. The way he and my mother dealt with the deaths of my elder brother and sister underlined their commitment to trust the Lord even through the darkest times. He enabled both my sister and I to grow up in a family where Jesus was clearly the head of the household. His lasting legacy to me will be my Christian faith and love of sailing.
Dad leaves his wife Marilyn Jacky and I, as well as eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His life will be celebrated at a service at Greyfriars Church, Reading, UK at 11am on September 26th. A webpage has been set up for those who may wish to give towards Dad’s chosen charities: www.memorygiving.com/dadrowlandson
Photo captions: 1) Maurice Rowlandson chatting with PR man, A. Larry Ross, at Mission England. 2) Maurice Rowlandson in his office, 3) Maurice with his wife, Marilyn, while leading a Holy Land tour. 4) Maurice was the founder of Venturers Cruise. 5) Julian Rowlandson.
About the writer: Julian Rowlandson is a company director working within the print industry. Married to Fiona they attend Greyfriars Church Reading where they are heavily involved in the Marriage Ministries. Julian has recently retired as commodore of the Venturers Cruise which his father founded 70 years ago. He remains a trustee of Venturers. Julian and Fiona have three sons and comment that their greatest joy is seeing their boys growing in love and faith and taking first steps into Christian leadership. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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