Right Reverend John Ball

Portrait John BallRt Revd John Ball, former Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, Honorary Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Chelmsford and former General Secretary of Crosslinks has passed on to glory after a period of illness. His funeral is to be held at Holy Trinity Church, Springfield, Chelmsford, CM2 6HS at 11.00am on Friday 30th September 2016.

Donations in lieu of Flowers are to be given to the work of Crosslinks. These can be sent to:
Richards Funeral Directors, 78 Newland Street, Witham, Essex CM8 1AH

Rt Revd John Ball  11th December 1934 – 5th September 2016

Thirty years after John started his missionary work as a youth worker in Eldoret, Kenya, whilst on a return visit there, some of John’s African friends took him into the vicarage and reminisced over the time when he covered as vicar of St Matthew’s. One said, “when you were vicar it was the first time we black people had been allowed in the vicarage here, – we just walked up and down.” Of course John would never have expected them not to come in. They were his brothers and sisters and the people God had called him to love. This desire to be, and living out of what it meant to be, inclusive, to see all people as valued and loved by God, equal and important, typifies what John stood for. It was why he was instrumental in the name change of BCMS from Bible Churchmen’s Missionary Society to Crosslinks, for he believed that our christian brothers and sisters from other cultures were able to be partners in mission just as effectively and sometimes more so than we from the white west and he believed that the cross of Christ was central to that mission.

His missionary career was, one could say, an anti-career for he saw his role as working himself out of a job by developing it into a post which an indigenous African did run and own. Youth and literature work in the Diocese of Nakuru, (Eldoret area) was passed on to local people. Establishing and managing the Church of the Province of Kenya press – Uzima went from John to Horace Etemesi. He was the last white vicar of Karen, the historic, settler suburb of Nairobi.

But more than this it was his desire to bring people within the Good news of Christ’s love for them which drove him, often it seemed, to do three jobs at a time he worked so hard and give himself in so many ways to so many people. A deeply pastoral person who managed people carefully and well he was also a doer making things happen effectively and purposefully. Whilst General Secretary of Crosslinks, his wisdom, sensitivity and desire to resolve issues and move things forward was as well evidenced in a late night listening and caring time for one or other person on the mission field as it was in his chairing of meetings and contributions to strategic committees. His office had a desk, filing cabinets, typewriter, phone and pleasant area to sit and chat.

Andy Lines Mission Director of Crosslinks wrote:

“I write as one who is still discovering ways, policies and processes that were put in place during John Ball’s tenure as General Secretary, now more than twenty years ago. I still regularly turn to his handover notes and I was not the one he was handing over to!

My first memory of John was long before. I met him, when he visited All Nations Christian College, and was surrounded by enquirers and candidates for service with Crosslinks. I was with another Society at that stage and always wondered who this person was who attracted people as bees to a honeypot.

John (and Anne’s) influence on the Society has been massive and he established relationships in the UK, Ireland and around the world that I have benefitted hugely from. I will miss his wisdom and support but will continue to benefit from the fruit of his service to his Lord.”

His Bible was his constant companion. He had a deep passion for understanding and expounding scripture. He did this with great insight and an ability to bring alive God’s word in a way which was relevant to contemporary life, particularly in his excellent preaching. Theologically conservative he nevertheless sought to work with people of all traditions in the knowledge that ours is not to judge but rather to work our convictions through with love. While he supported GAFCON as it gave a voice for the majority world Anglican church, he was never partisan and he believed in the structures of the Church of England and longed to see it renewed in its love for the Bible.

He was not tied to convention and his willingness to go beyond the norm could be seen in his support of Peter Harris, in linking the A Rocha Ecology project into the main mission work of the church. This was borne out of his deep love for God’s creation, particularly birds, and his belief that the Gospel should affect all areas of life. His Christ-like concern and support of those in difficult circumstances and his work to provide for their needs resulted in him becoming a Canon of the Diocese of Karamoja. Not an appointment of high rank within the Anglican Church rather a recognition that he associated with this, at the time struggling and stretched diocese, seeking to meet their needs and care for them.

Again, typically, he championed the financing of mission through mission societies, rather than through individual church links, for he recognised that some of those who would be most effective as missionaries and had the strongest calling did not attend churches which would be able to support them sufficiently and need to be valued and supported by the wider church. Clearly he asserted that the mission work of the church is and should be owned by the whole church and no-one should be denied the opportunity to serve God.

From the beginning of his time in Eldoret he was involved with the swahili ‘fellowship meetings’ at a one to one level, and our house and meal times had a constant throughput of the local people he and mum worked amongst. Memorably there was a mealtime when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sat down to table with us – many of the African Christian converts at that time having taken, old testament names at their baptisms. And the sight of a visiting African Bishop’s wife washing the clothes in the freezing cold of the doorstep of our house in Sidcup – because she’d never been to England before and had never had a washing machine. She was welcomed as she was.

A serious man he could also be a little subversive and loved to joke. On one occasion an Australian lady missionary on signing our visitor book saw that the name in the book on the line above had a + next to it and asked why. Dad being dad said to her, just put two , which she did ++. The next visitor to sign was the Archbishop of Canterbury!

John would never have imagined himself becoming a Bishop and the suggestion of going back to Africa and taking a job which an African could have done we believed vexed him. But he was willing to listen to God’s call and to realise that the post of Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika (DCT) was one where he could serve out his working life effectively and well in a way which enabled the African Church and African Christians to grow in their faith and love for God. Canon George Chomolla from the Diocese of DCT has said

“As a diocese we remember the extra-ordinary ministry of Baba and Mama Ball during their life in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika. Their many visits and confirmation Safaris. We feel humbled by their service”.

Bishop Dickson Chilongani from the Diocese of DCT writes:

“Two things I will always remember when I think of Bishop Ball. First, he was truly a man of God. Bishop Ball always relied on prayer and the word of God. He read his Bible every morning, preached and lived by it.

As for the diocese, the one thing he pioneered most was theological education: He pushed many clergy, including myself, to do further studies and some of us are Church leaders now. He and I also were able to start diploma and eventually degree courses at Msalato Theological College in Dodoma – he as Board Chair person and myself as Principal. As a result, this diocese now has the most educated clergy in the province.”

John ‘retired’ in 2000 but of course never stopped working. The Diocese of Chelmsford and many of it’s churches benefitting from his ministry particularly when there was a vacancy in see and shortage of Bishop’s in the Diocese. Latterly his ministry was mainly in his continued work on Bible study and detailed preparation for his preaching of the word in Holy Trinity, Chelmsford. He also continued to love cricket and other sport, enjoying going to Essex County ground with his grandson. John having played against David Sheppard in the final of the church times cup, back in his curacy days in Blackburn Diocese and played rugby till he couldn’t see the ball.

John knew that without the love and support of his dear wife Anne, who is an amazing, hospitable, caring, steady, strong lady, John would never have been able to achieve what he did or have the family he loved so dearly. He leaves his wife Anne, their three children and their families.

Kwaheri Tutaonana

By Mrs Mary Want, Revd. Philip Ball and Dr David Ball