We are sad to announce that former lecturer in Church History, Harold Rowden has passed away. Long-standing Lecturer at London School of Theology, Tony Lane pays tribute to him.
Harold Rowdon devoted most of his working life to teaching Church History at the London Bible College (now the London School of Theology). He took up the role in 1954 and remained until his retirement in 1991. I have known him since 1973 but only discovered in the process of writing this that his middle name was Hamlyn.
Harold was born in 1926 in Bolivia, where his parents were missionaries linked to the Brethren organisation Echoes of Service. Sadly his father died of typhoid fever soon after Harold was born and the family returned to England. He was converted at the age of five and baptised in 1938. His missionary roots remained with him and he had an ongoing interest in overseas mission and how it should adapt to a changing world. He was involved in the setting up of Latin Link.
Of greater ongoing influence was his parents’ Brethrenism. For his PhD he studied early Brethren history and his thesis was published under the title The Origins of the Brethren: 1825-1850 (Pickering & Inglis, 1967). He went on to write numerous other shorter pieces, mostly on the Brethren, and was throughout his life involved with the movement in many ways. He preached regularly and was a member of the council for Counties Evangelistic Work. From its inception in the 1960s he was an active member of the Christian Brethren Research Fellowship (CBRF, later renamed Partnership), the Brethren equivalent of Vatican II! He actively encouraged those Brethren churches that sought to adapt to changing social conditions by employing full-time workers and allowing women to play a fuller role. This active commitment to the Brethren movement continued until cut short by a serious stroke. His contribution was recognised in a collection of essays published in his honour: The Growth of the Brethren Movement (Paternoster, 2006).
Harold’s most significant role, his daytime job, was at LBC. In addition to Church History, he also taught Ethics for a while. It was alleged that he had a “joke book” from which he selected jokes for his lectures, an allegation that he always strenuously denied. He wrote the first history of the college, London Bible College: The First 25 Years (1968), a work which was later supplemented by Ian Randall’s Educating Evangelicalism: the Origins, Development and Impact of the London Bible College (Paternoster, 2000).
In the 1970s and ’80s the faculty often put on performances of episodes from Winnie the Pooh. Alongside Donald Guthrie as Eeyore (a casting made in heaven), Harold was brilliantly cast as Pooh Bear, entering into the role with zest.
Harold had a warm pastoral heart and as a bachelor lived in the college as a resident tutor. He took this role very seriously and virtually every Laing Hall resident was invited to one of his ‘at home’ meals at some stage. His signature meal was lettuce curry followed by pavlova, but he did have a wider repertoire as well! He also regularly organised group walks and visits around the area. He had a special knack of looking out for those who were lonely or who found it harder to make friends. He played a significant part in the life and development of many students over many ‘generations’.
Harold’s life exemplified his love for God, his love for neighbour and his love for the people of God. “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”