The Revd Brian Barker: 1931-2018
Popular teacher and minister who was still preaching 60 years after his ordination
Brian Barker was born 1931 in Catford, South-east London, second son of Gladys and Douglas Barker. At the outbreak of war he was evacuated to Reigate in Surrey. His brother, Roy, killed in action in 1944, was involved in the relief of the bridge at Arnhem.
Brian was educated at St. Dunstan's College in Catford (a future Bishop of Durham was the head boy when he first went there) to Matriculated (G.C.S.E.) and Higher Schools (A-levels) standard before obtaining a place at Cambridge to read Chemistry.
In 1947 Brian came into contact with a local Baptist church, and was baptised, becoming a member the next year. Between 1950 and 1952 Brian served his National Service in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, during which time he felt a call to enter the ministry. In September 1953 he spurned Cambridge to enter Spurgeon's College in London.
After successfully completing a four year course he was ordained into the ministry on 5 July 1957. He was married to Jean the next day after they had been engaged six years while he trained as a minister, and called to his first church, a rural setting in Stourport-on-Severn in Worcestershire where the birth of sons Jeremy (1959) and Timothy (1961) followed.
As a young man from the city, he found it hard to adjust, and they found him hard to accommodate, but he gained some very good friends with whom he maintained contact with throughout his life.
He moved to Carey, Kettering on 27 December 1962 and was inducted on a frosty evening in January 1963 by Dr Morris West.
Great change came in 1967: his daughter Helen was born and he joined the staff of Kettering Grammar School, to teach Greek, Latin and Religious Studies, while maintaining a Sunday ministry and some pastoral work during the week. This lasted until 1970, when he left the manse and resigned as minister of Carey to continue his teaching. He continue to support and work for Carey, running the Junior Church class for the young people with informal gathering and discussions. Brian remained a regular visitor and supporter to Carey over the years, often preaching when the minister was away. Remarkably he led a service here in January 2015 for Derek and Mary Neal, celebrating 50 years of marriage. Brian had conducted the original service - there will not be many ministers able to do that!
Brian retired from education and in 1989 took up a position of as Secretary of the Northants Baptist Association working for Baptists in the area from his new home at Martha Wallis Court where his wife was the warden for the Baptist Housing Association accommodation. Brian had married Janet a few years earlier and would go on to enjoy 33 years of happy marriage – he once told me he and Janet were a good match!
They retired in the mid-90s to live in Moulton, attending the Carey Baptist Church in the village on the outskirts of Northampton. Brian continued to preach around in the various churches of the Association, especially as he had become so well known serving the 62 or so county churches for seven years. He also spent a lot of time on the team ministry at Danesholme in Corby, an ecumenical project in which he took an active part with the Revd David Milner among others.
In more recent times increasing difficulty driving meant Brian wanted to be closer to family in Kettering, so they moved to Bath Road and became members of Burton Latimer Baptist Church.
He served there as moderator during the recent interregnum, but he struggled with mobility more and more. He bought himself a mobility scooter and was able to shoot down the road (not the 100MPH he had managed years ago when he used to take me to meetings in Northampton) from his home to Sunday service at Carey from time to time.
Brian has struggled to stand, and so preaching became a burden to him, but he was pleased to be able to preach at Burton Latimer Baptist Church on 5 July 2017 to celebrate 60 years since his ordination.
Brian, I know, has continued to meet old school master colleagues from the Grammar school days, and many will remember Chip Mandale (Kenneth) who became quite unwell after a stroke. Brian faithfully visited him in hospital and then at Elm Bank every week over a number of years.
I last met Brian in Kettering General after he had been told of his terminal illness. We had a good hour reminiscing and in typical Brian fashion he told me how he sees things, but also of the life he has lived and the love and friendship has shared with so many. He had few regrets.
Brian is at peace, we continue to offer support and prayers for Janet, his children and the wider family too.
The Revd Peter Strong