The Revd Dennis Stanley Floodgate: 1926-2017
'Knew and understood people well, and through his ministry of care and concern, he enabled others to know and understand the Lord he served so faithfully'
From the moment when, as a small boy, Dennis joined the 1st Fulham Life Boys at Dawes Road Baptist Church, the Boys Brigade was an organisation that was always very close to his heart. At the start of the Second World War, at the tender age of 14, Dennis helped run the BB Company with his brother George, father ‘Pop”, and a few NCOs whilst the officers and older lads went off to war. The leadership and teaching skills gained even at this early age would stand him in good stead for the future.
In 1942 he was called up as a Bevin Boy and sent down a coal mine in Worksop: he always said that training for ministry began at the coal face, ‘half a mile down and a mile in’, with the very real threat of the roof caving in; it was there that he really learnt how people responded differently to stress in their life and how he could help them.
After the war Dennis became a builder with a firm in Chelsea. In those days builders did everything, carpentry, electrics and plumbing. He would often be found in his overalls in the various churches he was minister at repairing the buildings, and many a time people popping in to the church would mistake him for a tradesman. He felt closer to the local people wearing his overalls then a dog collar.
Whilst in the building trade, he became a deacon at Dawes Road and worked at the Billy Graham revival meetings at Harringay in 1954, and on receiving a call to the ministry, he studied at London Bible College in 1956. Having left school at the age of 14 he had no formal qualifications and neither he, nor his family, could afford to pay for his education, so throughout the time at the LBC he paid for his courses by using his building skills around the college during the holidays, while like many theology students, he was also supported by his wife, Doreen, whose work as a nurse kept them going financially.
Having completed the Diploma in Theology and the required Baptist Union exam, he was ordained and then moved to the pastorate of Biggleswade Baptist Church. A far cry from Fulham, Biggleswade was a small market town where many of the members worked in agriculture. They weren’t wealthy people, but they supported their pastor and his wife with gifts of vegetables and eggs. The town was growing and church needed a larger, modern building. So their new minister, using the knowledge gained in the London building trade, embarked on the project and the result was a building still in service today. The striking design entailed the two halves of the roof being placed at different gradients to form a glazed gap so that light shines out across the town.
After 10 years in Biggleswade, and the arrival of two sons, Neil and Ian, Dennis moved to Portsmouth, where he spent three years, before moving again to Merstham, which at that time was an estate run by the Greater London Council and served as an overflow from the inner city areas. In addition to the church work, Dennis picked up the chaplaincy at the Surrey County Asylum, the psychiatric hospital at Netherne, where he would be asked by the consultants to see patients who had issues with guilt or sin. This work led to him giving lectures at Spurgeon’s and at LBC.
After 13 years, it was time to move to a new fellowship, and Dennis accepted the ministry at South Harrow. Further chaplaincy work followed at Northwick Park Hospital and he also became the last chairman of the Free Church Hospital Chaplains Fellowship as he worked with his Anglican colleagues to merge their two organisations.
On retirement he moved to the Cotswolds where he took on the small chapel at Arlington, leading services there or in other Cotswold chapels most Sundays. After the death of his wife, Doreen, he moved briefly to Ipswich and then to Horsham where he married Mo, a good friend he had known years before. Together they supported the work at Holbrooks Evangelical Church before eventually settling at Brighton Road, Horsham, where he is remembered with great affection as a man who embodied the nine fruits of the Spirit, to which he added his own inimitable sense of humour. Dennis knew and understood people well, and through his ministry of care and concern, he enabled others to know and understand the Lord he served so faithfully.