[I was privileged to know Gordon Powell a little, when we were both pastoring city churches in Sydney, and with occasional contacts in Melbourne. The last of his tribe of ‘relevant preachers’ who could fill a downtown church Sunday after Sunday for years. Rowland].
Friday, March 11, 2005 Sydney remembers a special preacher
Worldwide Photos – On Thursday, March 10, 2005, at 2.00pm, a Memorial Service for the Rev. Dr Gordon Powell was held in the church where his teaching, radio outreach and pastoral care became so widely known and recognised – St Stephen’s Uniting Church in Macquarie Street, Sydney.
The pealing of bells could be heard at the site, across the road from the State Parliament building, reminding people of a minister who influenced thousands of lives and their way of life, during his tenure as a minister.
Over 100 people gathered with family members, to acknowledge his ministry through his leadership in the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade; his shy personality; his pastoral concern for those who came to him, from many denominations and his preaching of the Scriptures in a manner in which hearers thought he knew all about their problems and had a word, just for them, from his Lord Jesus Christ.
The Service was led by the Rev. Matthew Jack, the Senior Minister of St Stephen’s who admitted to not knowing Mr Powell personally, but being aware of his influence “within the first five minutes” of his arrival to serve in this church!
Mr Jack welcomed those attending and explained this Service was to “remember (Mr Powell) and give thanks with gratitude for Gordon.”
The family man
One of his two surviving daughters, Mrs Jenny Goldie travelled from Melbourne for the occasion. Mrs Goldie spoke of her memories of Rev Powell as a loving and caring father – always remembering things, a hard worker and a father who took his family on outings and holidays.
“It was always fun to travel with dad in the car,” said Mrs Goldie. “He was a man of great compassion and one who served wherever he was placed.”
In 1936, he ministered as assistant minister in one of the wealthiest areas of Melbourne, at the Toorak Presbyterian Church. In May 1938 he was ordained at Port Adelaide, one the poorest areas, and in 1941 became assistant minister at Scots Church, Melbourne.
During the World War II years he was a RAAF Chaplain.
“He was the best of fathers and we miss him very much,” concluded Mrs Goldie.
The St Stephen’s man
In 1952 Mr Powell commenced what was called “his happiest ministry” – at St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church.
Mr Jack McHaig spoke of a packed church, morning and night! “The singing was good. The services were good. The sermons were like nothing I have ever heard!” said Mr McHaig.
He referred to the Tonic Cards, which not only advertised the church’s services but also included a verse of scripture, “which always had a great text – from a man who told you not to worry, but trust God.”
The introduction of the Stewardship Campaign was something radical in those days. Not only was the target of a hundred thousand pounds met, but most of it (two-thirds) was given away! “That was radical in those days, especially for a Presbyterian Church!”
The Billy Graham Crusade of 1959 in which Rev Gordon Powell, Rev Alan Walker and Sir Marcus Loane were the three leaders, was memorable for the ministry, outreach and impact on lives.
“He was a shy man, until you got to know him,” said Mr McHaig. “Those seven years of his ministry at St Stephen’s were so very important in my life. He was always so encouraging.”
The church man
The Rev. Dr Bill Ives paid tributes on behalf of the Church, “for a man who is remembered with thanks.”
“He was a man of God who taught people to let go – and let God.
“He was shy, but made a dynamic impact. He was orthodox, Bible-based and so easy to listen to and understand. He used illustrations from his own life (which was frowned upon by college lecturers in those days) to show the down to earth nature of the Word of God.”
Dr Ives also paid a tribute to Mrs Gwen Powell, a wife whose outgoing personality balanced (Gordon’s) shyness.
“Gordon’s pastoral advice was to listen, counsel and pray. When people met with Gordon, they met with God.”
Dr Ives quoted from the Rev Vernon Turner, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Association who even today claims that Rev Powell was the best Christian broadcaster ever heard in Australia.
Mr Powell’s son, Mr David Powell presented the Scripture reading from Philippians 4:4-9 and John 14:1-7.
In his Homily, the Rev. Matthew Jack spoke of Moses becoming so intertwined with God’s words that people saw Moses but heard God (Deuteronomy 34:1-12)
and applied this concept to the ministry of Mr Powell.
“He blessed this church. He blessed this city,” said Mr Jack.
Mrs Mardi Joughin, the second remaining daughter (a third daughter, Rosemary passed away in 1992) sang Antonin Dvorak’s composition of “The Lord’s my Shepherd” as the Memorial Service came to a close.
The formalities came to an end, but it was obvious from the tributes and acknowledgements given that the influence of the Rev. Dr Gordon Powell AM, MA, BD, LL.D, KCSJ – who lived on this earth from 22nd January 1911 until 1st February, 2005 – will continue in the lives of those who heard, met or was ministered to by this shy servant of God.