My family and I attend a Methodist church in Durham and Ben Blackwell (another Methodist) told me CK Barrett was on the preaching schedule for our area’s circuit a few times this year. keep in mind, he just turned 90. So, we decided to travel a bit further than usual to Langley Park to a small village church with about 20 members (15 in attendence!). Between Ben’s family, mine, and Mark Mathews (with his 3 kids), we doubled the church!
In the Methodist church, often the ‘preacher’ leads the whole service. Barrett was quite mobile, but he had a great deal of trouble reading the hymnal and liturgy. When it came to the scriptural passage, he carefully inspected the text with his magnifying glass and unfortunately had to skip sections where he could not make out the words. But…then he preached – I give him credit, he is a truly marvelous orator – even as a nonagenarian!
He spoke about Acts 26 where Paul is before Agrippa and shares his ‘message’ about turning unbelievers from darkness to light. Barrett said that he felt that anyone like Paul who had at least some Hellenistic education would have thought of Plato’s cave analogy. Barrett took us through Plato’s metaphor of the cave and the world…but Barrett explained that there is cognitive dissonance when you try to understand how that first person is able to break the chains and turn to see the true forms. Barrett explained that the Christian gospel is able to bridge that logical gap with the person of Christ.
I certainly did not explain his ideas with the sweet rhetoric that he did on Sunday, but take my word for it – it was a real treasure to see Barrett as a pastor who uses his academic wisdom for the betterment of ‘everyday’ believers. We spoke to him briefly afterwards and he was warm and kind. To speak to him personally you would not know who he was. He was a gentle, humble man. To hear him preach, you still see the fire of a new testament scholar, and the passion of a preacher and expositor.
I am happy to see Durham staff members participate in the life of the church. My own supervisor, Stephen Barton, is an anglican minister and he also tries to bring his learnedness to a level digestible by the church – he is an inspiration to me in many ways.
Thank you, Barrett. May your academic and ecclesiastical legacy carry on.