The Revd Richard Alfred Soar: 16 November 1942 –16 November 2021
He fought the fight, finished the race and kept the faith (transforming lives and churches in the process)
Richard was a man with a wide-range of interests and these interests would often become a life-long passion. From his learning of Hebrew and Greek, to his study of the scripture, it was never half hearted. His faith in Jesus was strong and his final wishes in his own written words about his funeral were “At my funeral I do not want a long account of what I’ve done, I want the whole theme and focus to be on my precious Lord Jesus Christ. I want the preacher to focus on preaching the word of God; Bible-based and setting forth the gospel clearly, inviting all hearers to turn to Christ in full trust and faith in Him.”
Richard was born on 16 November 1942 near Paddock Wood, his mother having been evacuated there, before returning to London as rather a surprise to his nine-year-old brother who was unaware a sibling was imminent!
Richard lived for a while in Eltham and then Burnham and attended the Grammar School in Marlow. He became a Christian in 1956 and was baptised later that year. Richard was very involved in Christian Endeavour and often went preaching with them. After leaving school he worked for Eagle Star Insurance and, while commuting to work, learnt Greek and Hebrew in order to apply to Spurgeon’s College for his ministerial training, which he did in 1962. At that point Richard was travelling everywhere on his motorbike which made for some wet journeys to preaching engagements. He often used to tell the story of the ‘gentle ‘rivalry between Spurgeon’s College and London Bible College and of how he was part of the team of Spurgeon’s students who managed to manoeuvre a mini into the entrance hall of London Bible College, take off its wheels and mount it on bricks. In the night. We never did hear what the reprisal was!
Following his ordination in 1966, Richard was inducted to his first pastorate in Horsham. From Horsham the family moved to Ashford in 1970 and was there for the next 13 years, during which time Richard was heavily involved in the church building renovations including building the new baptismal pool. He attended Boys’ Brigade camp every year and was responsible for writing the camp leader song for the closing evening, leading the singing and completing the crossword every day!
In 1983 it was time to move again, this time to Redhill. During the time at Redhill he worked with a team bringing God’s word on local radio and training Christians how to engage with the media in a meaningful way. This involved waking up at 5am on a Sunday morning to present the morning slot on local radio and then take two services at church. Richard also led several tours to Israel which were a source of real blessing for many people. This church was also renovated to make more room, and when it filled a second time, it planted a church in the next town.
In 1997 Richard moved on to be pastor to the pastors in Essex Baptist Association and then to be a Regional Minister with the newly formed Eastern Baptist Association. The pastoring role is one throughout his ministry he has thrived in and God has used him mightily.
In 2004 Richard’s deteriorating health forced him to take medical retirement and a move to Scunthorpe followed. Several operations followed and then, thankfully, a period of good physical health. This meant his ministry could continue again as he began to take services at local care homes, he was involved in home visiting, supporting and encouraging the local minister and singing in the local choir.
Sadly, gradually over the next few years, his memory deteriorated to the point where he did not feel confident to do any further preaching or public speaking. He continued to pray and intercede and bring words from the Lord to his fellow church members, friends serving on the mission field and friends around the country.
Richard’s ministry was supported by his amazing wife, Jill. They were married in 1965 and she was a constant companion in his ministry. They have two daughters, five granddaughters and two great grandsons. His family was always important to him and Richard spent many happy hours with them all in the loft playing trains. He always prioritised attending the end of term nursery performances, school nativity shows, talent shows, brownie initiations and music concerts.
Richard had many other interests in life, music, philosophy but probably the most dominant was that of trains, in particular steam trains, and interest that began in his teenage years. His love of steam trains continued with frequent days out and holidays, particularly to Swanage, in order to study them in great detail. Richard would then carefully describe to Jill the details of how they worked and the relative improvements each model had, but I’m not sure how appreciative she was though! His model railway though was amazing and good friends and family were invited to play with it for hours.
I had the deep privilege of working alongside him on the Association team in the Eastern Baptist Association. He brought such wisdom and insights as well as an incredible sense of humour. He loved his puns. Our Team Leader, the Revd Paul Hills said of Richard, “Richard was a fine and decent man with giftings far beyond what might have seemed to be there. From his mastery of NT Greek to his psychological insights using MBTI, he was a man completely suited to ministry. Underlying all that, of course, was a living, daily relationship with the Lord Jesus which was evident to all who knew him at all well. For me it was a privilege to have worked with him (and you!). The fact that the EBA had and still has stable and supportive regional teams was largely due to his example of honesty and humility which set the foundation for what has followed. He is greatly missed.”
Richard’s dementia increased in severity to the point in November 2018 that Richard and Jill needed the support of family members much closer to them and they moved to Lincoln to be near one of their daughters and family. The following year was a very difficult one and in February a month before lockdown, Richard joined the family at Evington Pilgrims Home in Leicester. It took a little while to settle in, compounded by the severe visiting restrictions for long periods of 2020 but he had been blessed and happy staying in a Christian setting with the care and support of an amazing group of carers and support staff. He died on his 79th birthday.
The legacy of his life is not counted in riches or fame, but in works of Christ through him. I cannot quantify how many people found a faith in Jesus through Richard’s ministry, there are many. Nor can I say how many women and men are now in ministry because of Richard’s encouragement, but it will be a lot. There are churches that are healthier because of him. The legacy of lives touched, people transformed and hope awakened by his life is too large to quantify, but he would simply say, “yet not I, but Christ in me.”
And now, there is in store for him, the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to him on that day. Well done good and faithful servant.
The Revd Ian Bunce