Farewell Service for Revd Ian Howarth

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In the Farewell Service for Revd Ian Howarth, Adam Sanders, District Mission Advisor, points out how Ian has enabled the ministry of others.

Saturday the 16th of July 2022 saw the Farewell Worship Service for Revd Ian Howarth at Methodist Central Hall Coventry.

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Ian entered Methodist circuit ministry in 1983 and has served as Birmingham District Chair for the last 9 years. This summer marks a new phase in Ian’s life and ministry as he retires.

There were contributions from Rev’d Neil Johnson and Rev’d Emily Young who lead the service, including presenting Ian and Barbara with numerous gifts.

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Birmingham Chinese Methodist Church choir shared a song.

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Rev’d Latika Singh read Matthew 16.

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Sandie Smith, District Council Secretary thanked Ian and spoke of his gentle leadership, his humour and his ability, without rushing through a sometimes long agenda, to finish a meeting on the dot. 

Rev’d Marcus Torchon, Superintendent of Coventry and Nuneaton Circuit focused in on Ian’s loyalty and commitment. “You were always there when we needed you. We loved working with you.” He also highlighted Ian’s match-making stationing intelligence.

Rev’d Jane Craske, Director of Methodist Formation at The Queen’s Foundation said, “We have deeply appreciated Ian’s faithful presence and commitment to his ministerial training oversight role, his affirmation of the work we do as tutors as well as wanting to do the very best for student ministers in all their varied situations.” Chairing oversight panels means wrestling with tough decisions and Jane witnessed Ian’s care and compassion for all involved in those situations. 

Rev’d Ian Worsfold and Rev’d Paul Wood talked of Ian’s skill and sensitivity in helping worship bands form and excel and his role in the making of the worship book ‘Singing In The Faith’. Paul pointed out that because of his humility, "when Ian speaks, people listen." 

Rev’d Acub Simba, Bishop of Kadoma District, Rev’d John Hellyer, Superintendent of Gloucestershire circuit and Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham Bernard Longley all communicated their thanks to Ian. The latter drew attention to Ian’s ‘ecumenical heart’.

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Ian responded to the many thank yous. He spoke of feeling like the last of a generation of district chairs and presbyters. 

He said, “As the fast-changing world and church challenge us to do things very differently. I hope in some ways we are preparing for that. With ‘New Places for New People’, with new relationships with neighbouring districts, and working towards an inclusive church with a diversity of our membership, our ministry and wider society celebrated and allowed to enrich us all.

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The days ahead are challenging, but through the openness to the Holy Spirit I pray we will be empowered and enabled to meet those challenges in the strength that comes from the love and grace of our Lord Jesus for us and for all God’s people.”

Adam Sanders, District Mission Advisor spoke with great passion about the 11-minute rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ by Aretha Franklin in the new Temple Baptist church in 1972. Her whole performance was recorded and become a much-loved gospel album.

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Adam claimed, “This transcendent moment is only possible because all these people are bound together by the music and by the Spirit. It strikes me that if we were present, there would be no doubt that church was happening and Aretha was the enabler.”

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Adam continued, “Jesus’ church is built on ordinary, fallible, sinful people. I wonder whether in recent times we’ve lost our faith in the ordinary people in local congregations around the country, who need to be raised up, enabled and empowered. Do we provide a safe space to explore discipleship, make mistakes and grow in a wide range of gifts? 

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The local church is the hope of the world, a place for those moments of transcendence. It’s people turning up week on week to experience the extraordinary in the ordinary of one another, the music, the bread, the wine.”

Adam concluded, “A good leader is one who encourages and empowers others, who doesn’t take the limelight for themselves, who builds teams, fosters Christian community, leaves space and only pulls rank when it’s for the sake of someone who doesn’t have a rank. I’ve always appreciated how Ian has been an enabler for the ministry of others.”


report by Joel Wilson

photos by Danielle Wilson

Some images are from the service livestream

Farewell Service for Revd Ian Howarth