Over 1,500 people from across the British Isles and from as far away as Denmark and America came together to celebrate the memory and loving service given by a young pastor, Andrew Davis, age 38. They were moved by his sudden tragic death following a clot on his lung, and by his leaving behind a courageous young family.
Pastor David Neal, a friend of his father, Pastor Sam Davis, attended the service on Tuesday, January 7, and penned this reflection:
When Pastor Sam Davis was a ministerial student at Newbold College in the early 1980s, he often frequented the gymnasium to play and enjoy a game of five-a-side football with fellow students. Given the then-bare concrete walls and floor, every kick and every bounce of the ball “boomed” as the sound echoed around the room.
Sam and Rowena were the parents of two toddlers, Anthea (aged 3), and Andrew (aged 18 months). Full of hope and optimism about the future, they lived sacrificially in the college’s “married students” accommodation, Binfield Hall. However, they were committed to serving the Lord and His church, and looked forward to graduating, ministerial employment, and settling down as a family. Their future lay ahead, with all the bright optimism any family could reasonably expect. Not least, they recognized that the Lord was traveling with them. The journey took them through various fields of ministry as a district pastor, a youth director, and as President of the South England Conference.
Thirty-seven years later, those gathered in the same college gym on Tuesday, January 7 heard another “boom,” this time created by the beat of the Pathfinder Drum Corps. It was their way of saluting Sam’s son Andrew, also a pastor, mentor and leader, as they preceded his coffin into what has now become a sports hall and multi-purpose meeting venue.
Leading the family was Andrew’s wife, Natasha, and their three young children, Leila, Malachi, and Zoe. The unexpected and sudden death of a loved one causes compounded grief. As Andrew’s sister Anthea described in her eulogy, “The loss of Andrew to his family and community is colossal, and he is most desperately missed.”
Despite the shock of the sudden death, South England Conference President Pastor Emmanuel Osei emphasized in his welcome that the intent of the service was to celebrate and give thanks for Andrew’s life, emphasizing that “the family mourn as those who have a hope.”
Sam and Rowena Davis paying tribute to their son.
As Sam and Rowena Davis gave a tribute to their son, the only reaction of those present was to pray for them. To have to share the story of someone whom they’d loved, nurtured, and sacrificed for was stirring. Naturally, they both shared some cheerful anecdotes about Andrew’s competitive nature, and the fun they had together. Rowena was quick to highlight how Andrew was loved unconditionally. Sam elaborated on this by saying that “God took hold of Andrew, changed him, shaped him, and molded him into what it was to be a husband and dad.” What shone through was that Sam and Andrew were best friends, soulmates. As Sam concluded, he reiterated the context by saying, “When God causes you to down the bitter cup of bereavement, remember that He’s the one holding it to your lips.”
Andrew’s student peer group are now all serving as pastors. Matthew Herel shared on their behalf the educational, professional, and spiritual journey they have been on together, and how Andrew took the lead to make sure that “no man was left behind.”
Andrew’s student peer group comprised Micah Campbell, Vili Costescu, Anthony Fuller, Sam Gungaloo, Matthew Herel and Max McKenzie-Cook.
We do not have space to report on how Andrew was loved by the members he served in Brixton, Colchester, Ipswich, Clacton, and then Newbold College churches, or his active ministry to children and youth. His most recent pastoral appointment was to the Reading district and local church elders Boikie Osupeng and Steve Griffiths both spoke of his vision, enthusiasm, and passion for outreach and evangelism.
Natasha, surrounded by her three children, shared a tribute on a pre-prepared video, sharing how much they loved the one they now miss so much.
Pastor Jonathan Burnett, in his sermon, explained how Andrew was named after the disciple Andrew (the introducer) by his parents. As if in a direct challenge to the forces of evil, he reminded listeners of the devil’s intention to destroy Jesus. “If you think you can destroy a seed by burying him, you are mistaken.” Within minutes of making that statement, the preacher appealed for a response, and two young men responded by committing themselves to prepare to serve in full-time pastoral ministry.
Pastor Jonathan Burnett.
As music went from lament to praise, headed by the Reading Community Gospel Choir, the service ended with the choir singing “Hallelujah” as the coffin and the family departed to the crematorium.
Pastor Andrew Davis has left a legacy of brilliance, excellence, and commitment — to his Lord and Savior, to the church he served, and, by no means least, to his beloved Natasha, Leila, Malachi, and Zoe. Maranatha!
This article was written by David Neal and originally appeared on the TED News Network, the official news service of the Trans-European Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. A fuller version of this report is due to appear in the January 24 Messenger, Official Journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the UK and Ireland.
Main image: Tribute to late Pastor Andrew Davis. (Photo credit: Michael K. Asare). All images courtesy of the TED.
Death of Pastor Andrew Davis, December 26, 2019 announcement from the South England Conference.
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