David Matthews,1946-2023: A Great Man and Committed Disciple

Author: Charles Whitehead

David Matthews,1946-2023: A Great Man and Committed Disciple

David Matthews, the popular and well-known Christian leader, recently died unexpectedly on July 3rd at the age of 76. Charles Whitehead KSG pays tribute to the 'huge blessing' David was, both to the CELEBRATE conferences and to the wider CCR family.

David was a great friend of CELEBRATE and spoke at all our Conferences and later at our CELEBRATE Weekends every year. His wife, Mary, was also much loved by CELEBRATE, and she died a few years ago in 2020. 

David and Mary were both from Northern Ireland, where David was an ordained Free Methodist pastor, and during the early years of the Troubles they were both traditionally anti-Catholic. This changed when David's Baptism in the Holy Spirit, which he had experienced as a young man, suddenly came alive. This transformed him, and his subsequently established Ecumenical Prayer Group (later an Ecumenical Community) resulted in his commitment to unity.

This, in turn, led to both  him and Mary facing active Protestant opposition which eventually convinced them to move to Essex, and to become Independent Church leaders, associated with John Noble, Gerald Coates and others they had met in previous years. In the early 1990s, they set up in Brentwood a new independent and ecumenical church, "New Harvest Community Church".

A Great Personal Friend and Supporter

Sue and I had first met David and Mary in the 1980s and had invited David to speak at the Southampton Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference. It was there that he had a prophetic word for us, which was instrumental in our starting the annual CELEBRATE Charismatic Conference in Ilfracombe, Devon, in 1994 at which he was one of our main speakers.

David became a great personal friend and supporter, and over the years we spent many good times talking and praying together. His ministry had become wide-spread and he travelled extensively both here and abroad, speaking in both Protestant and Catholic settings.

He gave me his unstinting personal support, and I learned a lot from him of the valuable pastoral insights of the Independent Charismatic Churches, and the importance of building good relationships between them and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, today known as CHARIS.

'He always waited for the guidance of the Holy Spirit'

The Holy Spirit worked powerfully in his life over many years, and more recently he felt called to join the Catholic Church, to be followed by his wife Mary. I was honoured to be his proposer when he formally became a Catholic in Brighton about 7 years ago.

From that time onwards, he committed himself to ministry in his local parish, and reduced his national and international travel accordingly. David and Mary were very special people whom the Lord used widely in building His Church.

I always felt very privileged to be a close friend for more than 30 years, and David was a huge blessing to the CELEBRATE Conferences and to many other Christian gatherings both Catholic and Protestant.

A Fascinating Journey

He always waited for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and then acted on what he heard. This took him on a fascinating journey from being an actively anti-Catholic leader in Belfast to a fully committed member of the Catholic Church in Brighton, England, almost 50 years later.

To know him personally was a great gift of the Spirit, and I will be one of many who will miss our prayerful meetings and his inspiring and encouraging teachings.

Enjoy your time with the Lord, David. We are looking forward to being with you again one day. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are particularly with your family - Ian, Avril, Jo and Sarah. Amen. 

PS:- David's wife Mary has written two books.The first one, "The Valley", is about her personal journey in Renewal. The second, "At The Beginning", looks at the memories of some of the key people at the beginning of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and the Protestant Charismatic Movement, and contains chapters written by Fr. Peter Hocken, Myles Dempsey, Fr. Pat Collins, John Noble, myself and my wife Sue among others. Both books are available from New Life Publishing, Luton, LU4 9HG.

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