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The Revd Mike Wood: 1941-2018

Mike WoodWith the death of the Revd Michael Joseph Wood the people and churches of the Baptist movement have lost one of their most loved and valued ministers. Mike passed away on 24 November in Mayday Hospital, Croydon after several weeks of intense illness. He was 77. 

A Londoner through and through, and a lifelong West Ham supporter from a family of the same, Mike was converted under the ministry of the Revd Angus Macmillan at Streatham Baptist Church as was his wife Lesley. He was subsequently to be baptised, married and ordained in this same church and himself became its senior pastor in 1983, serving with tenacious faithfulness until 2006. The church thrived under his care, shared with Lesley, as did other churches in south London, which he was to serve as an area minister of the London Baptist Association well into retirement. 

These later years were also marked by constant itinerant preaching, retreat-leading, spiritual direction, healing-prayer, counselling, writing (especially Leading the Jesus Way), and ministry by invitation in Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Honduras, Guatemala, India, Romania, India, Nepal, and Sikkim, usually under the auspices of Global Action. Yet, remarkably, Mike always gave the impression of having time for people. He loved to preach, did so with  humour and passion, and was the ultimate people-person: kind, patient, attentive and supportive. 

A product of Spurgeon's College, where he was required to study for five years up to 1965, Mike was a founder member of the Venturers, at the time a ground-breaking initiative in gospel communication that caused considerable controversy. Members of this group, such as Bryan Gilbert, Doug Hollidge and Derek Punchard were later to distinguish themselves in mission and ministry.

After ordination Mike was part of the radical 'Rochdale Experiment' in urban mission. From 1965 to 1983 he was pastor of West Street Baptist Church (now Open Door Church) ministering in a multiply impoverished  environment. Londoner though he was, Mike was easily accepted as a Northerner, loved being 'up North' and continued an association with Open Door, and the North, right to the end. Although the church remained numerically small, it had an impact out of all proportion, largely through The Cellar, a Saturday and Monday night outreach in the basement of the decaying church building. It might be thought of as a spiritual equivalent of The Cavern. Dozens were baptised and others launched into ministry.

Moving back to Streatham in 1983 to succeed Douglas McBain he not only led the way in developing the church as a charismatic and multi-cultural community and initiating or extending several social ministries, but enabled ministers such as Don Attenborough, Paul Goodliff and Jeannie Kendall to emerge as team-members alongside him. The church building was also very attractively refurbished under his ministry. 

After the cremation at Lambeth Crematorium on 10 December a packed Thanksgiving service was held, fittingly, on 11 December 2018 at Streatham Baptist Church. It was a superb occasion in which family members played a prominent and moving part. Even so some things that were very 'Mike' had to be passed over, including his love for the Holy Land. He expertly led almost 30 pilgrimages and in so doing impacted the lives of hundreds. In his private life he was a poet and artist and a collector of stamps and coins. Throughout his busyness in later years he was still able with Lesley to enjoy his retirement and despite recurring illnesses to experience life to the full.  

As a member of the Venturers, Mike wrote a number of songs, of which the best known was 'John 3:16', 'Jesus is the Saviour whom I love to know, heaven is the haven where I'm going to go'. I had known Mike for some 20 years before realising that he was its author. Many others may be in the same boat. I once heard his and my great friend Mike Huck of Heywood muse that in heaven, when there is 'silence for about half an hour', someone, in a corner somewhere will be heard strumming the tune and singing the words 'Jesus is the Saviour whom I love to know'. I'm sure Mike would enjoy it. 

Mike leaves behind his beloved and extraordinary wife of over 50 years, Lesley, their sons Mark and Ian and their wives Janet (daughter of Douglas and Christine McBain) and Mary, and their six grand-children, George, Harry, Max and Charlotte (the only and favourite grand-daughter), Dexter and Felix. He was enormously proud of them all, and they of him; and with every reason. 

Nigel G. Wright 

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