A Visit to John Stott

29 June 2007 |
John Stott and Chris Wright
John Stott and Chris Wright

By Chris Wright
International Director, LPI

A sleepy rural railway station in the heart of leafy Surrey nestles alongside the grounds of a
retirement home for Anglican clergy 30 miles south of London. From getting off the train from London, it took less than five minutes to stroll down the lane that leads to the beautiful cloistered brick buildings and well-tended gardens of the community where John Stott now lives. Resplendent rose bushes competed with ancient English oaks and beech trees for my eyes’ attention, while the whole open quadrangle breathed peace and calm, with the central chapel completing the familiar impression of a Cambridge college.

John Stott’s desk
John Stott’s desk

I found Uncle John as I had so often found him before, seated at his desk. This time however he was not looking out over Bridford Mews, but through exquisite leaded windows over the lawn and gardens around which all the accommodation is arranged. His two-room apartment gives onto a pleasant cloistered pathway with benches for relaxation in warmer weather, and is only a few yards walk from the refectory where we later joined the other residents for a very wholesome lunch. He was, as usual, surrounded by papers, assisted by his magnifying reading machine. Frances Whitehead spends a day each week with him working on continuing correspondence.

The grounds at John Stott’s Retirement Home
The grounds at John Stott’s retirement home

It is still less than a month since John moved in, yet already I heard him greeting many of the residents and staff by name. His gift of friendship and memory for names have clearly not been left behind in London. He was telling me of one of the several retired bishops among the residents with whom he has struck up a friendship, and how they had spent an hour and a half that morning walking around the grounds together.

He was as keen as ever to hear of all my comings and goings; I have always felt what I imagine Timothy must have felt too when he went to report to the Apostle Paul. We were able to rejoice together in the many ways that God is continuing to bless and strengthen the Langham ministries in so many countries. I was able to bring him greetings from many friends around the world, and it was heart-warming to see the encouragement this gives him.

The cloister at Uncle John’s home
The cloister

John is increasingly frail and particularly unsteady on his feet (he walks with a ‘rollator’). Yet he is determined to bring a word from the Lord to the Keswick Convention in July, at what will almost certainly be his last public address. He will need to be sustained by the prayers of God’s people for that occasion on July 17th – both in the preparation of his message, which is occupying most of his thoughts at present, and in the physical demands of delivering it.

I walked back to the little railway station in the after-lunch sunshine, leaving Uncle John to his customary siesta, with thanks to God that he is settling in, making friends, and being well-cared for in a loving Christian community, with high quality medical care close on hand. We can all join with him in recognizing the good hand of God in this provision.

Read more about how Chris Wright and Langham Partnership International are “Keeping the Legacy Alive.”