The following tribute to Andrew Gardiner was given at Hope Baptist Lunch Club on Monday 8th April by Jean Potter.
I think most of you will know that our much-loved minister, Andrew Gardiner, died on 28th March. We would like to pay tribute to him.
He was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2016. This was a tremendous shock to us all, because at that point he was a very fit 57 year-old. He ran regularly, he played five a side football and was full of energy. He could run the legs off players 20 years younger!
After a career in Local Government, Andrew came to Plymouth as youth director at Mutley Baptist church, and later, having felt called to be ordained as a minister, he came here to Hope to work with Andy Saunders, taking responsibility for youth work. Andy and Jenny left in 2012 to work with BMS in Nepal and the church appointed Andrew as sole minister.
As I said earlier, Andrew was full of energy, he could leave you feeling exhausted. His work rate was phenomenal, and to list all the things he got involved in would take all afternoon. People didn’t always agree with him, but no-one could question his passion to see people coming to faith in Christ, or his commitment to and his love for this church.
He and Katherine were very much a team, and there are individuals and families at Hope who could tell you just how far they were prepared to go in caring for and supporting people at times of crisis. Andrew was one of the first to call at my house when my father died suddenly; he didn’t know my Dad, he barely knew me, but he was there.
On one occasion he felt God telling him to go to Southampton to visit someone in hospital, so he got on a train and went, only to find that the person had been transferred to a hospital in London. Andrew promptly set off to London and booked himself into a B&B so that he could visit the patient.
I remember talking to him in the summer of 2016 when he had been forced to step back from his work here, and he said “This feels all wrong. At this time of year I should be planning the programme for next year, bouncing ideas off people and getting stuck in”. I really think that one of the hardest things for him about his illness was that he couldn’t be fully involved in the church that he and Katherine loved so much.
But, as we know, he didn’t lie back and wallow. That wasn’t Andrew. While in hospital he began to compose songs, poems and prayers, and three of those songs have been recorded as CDs. All the proceeds are going to Rising Hope, a charity that he set up to support young people in mission. Two things he was passionate about – Young people and mission.
He still came to church as often as he could, and he and Katherine spoke at other churches about their situation and what God was doing through them. He gave numerous radio and press interviews And was featured twice on Songs of Praise on BBC 1. As you know, he often came to Lunch Club which he thoroughly enjoyed.
I asked him to give the talk here in January and he did, willingly, though by that time he was in constant pain and very, very tired. His faith in God and his own determination kept him going far longer than could reasonably have been expected.
The bowel cancer had been treated with some success, but it had spread to his liver and other areas, and finally he went to be with the Lord he loved and served so faithfully.
We miss him. There won’t be another Andrew. We thank God for his life and for all that he did for us here and for the Kingdom. In our sadness we rejoice that because of his faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus he is now with Him in Glory. He has heard the “Well done, good and faithful servant”