Tribute from Les Yates
Raymond Gregory became a Christian whilst serving in the army at Saton camp, Chester. A visiting representative of SASRA gave Raymond a copy of the New Testament and having been put away in a drawer for some time and through being short of something to do Ray decided to read. The end result of reading God’s word was, as Ray often quoted, ‘I fell in love with Jesus Christ’. His love for Jesus Christ was later borne out by his relentless service for his Lord and Saviour.
In the 1950’s Ray was ministering in a Congregational church in Ramsbottom when he received a call of help from a Primitive Methodist chapel which was struggling to survive in the next village of Summerseat. Ray had no hesitation in giving a helping hand to a few ladies who had been praying for young men to join them. For a short time Ray continued to serve both churches but left the full time ministry in a denomination which had become more and more liberal. By 1961 the work in the Primitive Methodist chapel/Gospel mission had become well and truly established being re-named Summerseat Independent Evangelical church.
Saints continued to be built up through Ray’s faithful ministry and the Bible studies were a real source of joy and edification through good, sound Calvinistic theology. Ray was never still in those days and as well as being involved in the pastoral ministry and evangelism was often found working many hours on church building renovation. In addition to all these activities Ray had to return to secular employment in the local cotton mill.
In 1969 Ray received a call from F.I.E.C. to be Home missions evangelist in Skelmersdale. After many labours, including much door knocking, a local church was established; Ray and Muriel continued to see steady growth over the next 6 years. In 1975 .Ray and Muriel felt that they had done all they could in Skelmersdale and felt the need to move on with FIEC home missions to fresh pastures which coincided with a desperate need of help from his previous work in Ramsbottom. When Raymond joined the fellowship in Summerseat we were without a building due to the termination the Co-op’s 10 year lease, we were also without a pastor. Within a couple of years of Ray joining we had their own little shop as a meeting place adding the two shops next door later. Again Ray threw himself wholeheartedly into the ministry and renovation of the building.
Ray’s ministry continued unabated over the years in spite of suffering a stroke and other heart problems, his love and service for the Lord, especially the preaching was his continual delight. Some further a field will remember Ray’s Holy Spirit anointed preaching during his presidency of the FIEC in 1990.
Ray retired from the pastorate at the age 69 and continued in membership with us up to his home call and the awaiting crown of glory. There is so much more could be said about Raymond Gregory, but God alone knows the things Ray did in response to the One Who loved him and gave Himself for Him. It was joy and a privilege to have known this faithful servant of the Lord, to share in his strong leadership, his total reliability and his commitment to the cause of Christ and His Kingdom. The fellowship in Ramsbottom and elsewhere will be ever grateful to the Lord for giving Ray and his dear wife Muriel and their gifts to the church. Ray suffered the loss of his wife Muriel in 2011 and it is reassuring to know that Ray and Muriel are now reunited with the Saviour they both loved and served so faithfully.
The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it. Proverbs 10:22
Tribute from Oliver Allmand-Smith
It was always going to be difficult trying to step into the shoes of Raymond here in Ramsbottom, and there were times in the early days when we had our differences. However, one thing was never in doubt with Raymond: his complete devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. He loved his Saviour with every fibre of his being, and he was completely committed to the cause of Christ. There was nothing he would not do for his Jesus! I remember discussing the theology of conversion with him, and his response was simple: “You don’t have to understand much to be converted: you just have to fall in love with Jesus!”
A short while before he died, Ray shared with me how hard he had struggled since the death of his beloved Muriel two years previously. He found it incredibly difficult to come to terms with God’s providence in taking her from him. However, these were some of the last words he ever said to me in this world: “I have finally made my peace with God. At last I have really accepted His will. Now I am ready to be with my Saviour. All I want is to see the face of Jesus, and I will be satisfied.” The tears in his eyes showed that he spoke from his heart. Remembered with love and respect.
Tribute from Colin Wilson
When he was our pastor, Raymond always had the good of the church at heart. If you had a problem you could share it with Ray knowing he would give you sound advice. I remember when first converted speaking to Raymond about severing links with the harmonica band I played in, and my apprehension at breaking the news to them. Ray prayed with me then said that the Lord would make a way for me, but that I would need to take a step of faith. He reminded me that the feet of the priests who carried the Ark of the Covenant actually had to rest in the river before the waters of the Jordan could roll back and allow safe passage to the children of Israel. Later I approached the band and told them of my intention to quit and why. The leader said that his father was an evangelist and that he quite understood. We parted on amicable terms.
Tribute from Gary Stredder
Raymond Gregory the man to whom through Christ I owe so much! It was your unbridled zeal for the Lord Jesus that made me see the emptiness in my soul, which brought me to the Cross. It was by your faithful, uncompromising preaching that I heard God’s warnings to flee from sin and ungodly ways.
By your words God allowed a weak, downtrodden sinner to touch ‘the hem of His garment’ and find healing, peace and rest for his soul. By your prayerful exposition, I’ve been transported from the depth of despair to the boarders of the Promised Land and allowed to glimpse the wonders beyond.
Preaching with the wrath of a lion and the gentleness of a dove and always for His Glory despite the costs, the Lord could not have placed my soul in safer hands. I love you dearly and miss you so much, my Dearly Beloved Pastor, Teacher, Brother and Friend.
Tribute from Rob Stredder
Raymond did a fantastic job of preparing young men for the public ministry of preaching. With regular preachers groups, Raymond’s unique teaching ministry, together with his straightforward, quirky but unforgettable one liners, he soon knocked off any rough edges from those of us who where budding young preachers.
I will never forget when he asked me if I was ready to preach my first sermon. I said, “I was very nervous”, his reply was, “Well that’ll not do you any good lad.” I was a little taken back at the time. But he went on to say; “If you’re nervous, the congregation will be nervous for you.” Not the inspiring words I was looking for at the time, although it was a very grounding experience, and stood me in good stead for future preaching appointments. I always felt convinced of his prayers and support. He stood by me through many of the most difficult times of my young Christian life, and his counsel was invaluable to me. His preaching often moved me to tears, and his love for the Saviour was prevalent in all his ministry. His legacy will live on.
Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. John 13:23
Tribute from Erny Westwell
Raymond Gregory took me to Billy Graham; Billy Graham took me to Jesus; then Raymond taught me all bout Him. God bless Raymond.
Tribute from Derek Prime
How I wish I could be with you at the Thanksgiving Service, but I will be remembering you all as you gather. Ray’s work as a church planter was outstanding and God’s hand was clearly upon him. He and his wife were totally committed to one another and to the Lord. I stayed in their home whenever I preached at Ramsbottom and discovered just how well read he was.
Tribute from Elizabeth (Sheila) Upchurch
I was converted under Ray’s ministry, whilst attending the church at Ramsbottom before moving to Devon. I thank the Lord for this faithful servant and how He used Ray’s ministry to convict me personally of my sin and the need of Jesus Christ in my life. I was introduced to Ray and Muriel by Brian Edwards a number of years ago. I always remember the warm and sincere love they had for the Lord and how they took me under their wing. We shared many memorable times together and I thank the Lord for directing my path and the opportunity to sit under Ray’s preaching, for that I will be eternally grateful.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. Song Of Solomon 2:4
Tribute from Sarah Sharples
I moved to Ramsbottom ten years ago so only knew Ray and Muriel after they had retired, but their love for the Lord and for each other was clear to see. An abiding memory of Ray is when I would practice the piano after services. There could be plenty of hustle and bustle going on and Ray sitting at the opposite end of the room, but whenever I played the tune ‘Huntingdon’ I could always hear him joining in and singing ‘Immortal honours rest on Jesus’ head’. We thank God that He has kept Ray to the end and now he is ‘forever with the Lord’.
Tribute from Tony Flanders
It has been a privilege to get to know Ray over the past 3 years. Each time I visited him, he showed great appreciation, but I am sure that my time with him did me more good than him. It was always encouraging to speak with him of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through these talks and books Ray gave me, the abiding encouragement I had from him was to look more to the cross of Christ. It is here that Ray knew God’s love, forgiveness and blessing. It is to the cross we all must turn.
Jesus saith unto him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”. John 14:6
Tribute from Heather Westwell
More often than not I would leave Raymond’s sermons bursting with love for Jesus and wanting to serve Him better. That was because Raymond loved to tell you how wonderful the Lord is. I will always remember Raymond for that!
Tribute from Linda Hough
Louise Blezard invited me to her church after we met on the coach going to hear Billy Graham in Liverpool. That was 29 years ago. When I heard Raymond preach for the first time, I asked Louise if she had told him about me. She said that she hadn’t. I said, “but he knew everything about me!” She stated, “it’s God that knows everything about you and God used Raymond to reveal Himself to you.” I’d been a Christian about 18 months, and I wanted to put down into words what the Lord meant to me. That was the start of Raymond teaching me how to write poetry. During that time, I not only got to know Raymond the preacher, but also Raymond the man. We used to laugh a lot if I was unable to get the rhythm right in the poem. I remember when he was very unwell: I was so upset, thinking “what will the church do if the Lord takes him, and we lose our beloved pastor?!” I will never forget the hug he gave me after mum told him how upset I was.
The last sermon Raymond preached as pastor was not only difficult for him, but also the church as a whole. He told us that he was putting us in an ark to set sail, and that his trust was in the Lord to keep us safe. That’s exactly what the Lord has done! I have many times thought how Raymond must have felt blessed as God has continued to give us faithful preachers over these years. Pastor Raymond Gregory, in this life you were a faithful and trusting servant to your Lord and Saviour. To me you were a man full of knowledge, wisdom, understanding and love. I will always praise God for your life. I will miss you Raymond, but I know that one day, praise God, I will see you and Muriel again.
Tribute from Colin & Jean
It has been said that behind every good man there is a good woman and Ray was blessed indeed to have had Muriel beside him. Throughout his ministry Ray could always count on Muriel’s help, support and understanding, even through the difficult early days when he was working in the cotton industry as well as being Pastor of the infant church down in Summerseat. How he managed to do both jobs and put in all the necessary study as well is a mystery to us all. However I’m sure he couldn’t have done it without Muriel’s love and encouragement.
Who can find a virtuous woman?
For her price is far above rubies. (Proverbs 31:10)
Ray did in Muriel!
Tribute from Lilian Petch
The first time I heard of Raymond Gregory was when my mother came back from a meeting at the home of Mr Fox. She was so impressed with him she said, “I’ve heard a young man preach tonight and I am sure he is going to be a wonderful preacher.”
I met Raymond when he was invited to speak at our ladies’ meeting one Wednesday night – that was 56 years ago! I have been trying to think of one thing to say about Raymond, and it is hard to pick out just one! Perhaps this prayer by Ignatius of Loyola sums up Raymond in my mind:
Teach us, good Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest; To give, and not to count the cost, to fight, and not to heed the wounds, to toil, and not to seek for rest, to labour, and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do thy will.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2
Tribute from Roy Saint (on behalf of the FIEC)
Ray was an accredited FIEC minister from 1962 through to his retirement in 1998. During that time he had a significant involvement with FIEC. In particular, Ray served as a FIEC home missionary from 1968-85, pioneering a church planting work in Skelmersdale as well as revitalising and developing the church in Ramsbottom. He also served as the National President of FIEC in 1990. The FIEC’s Directors and Trust Board would like to acknowledge Ray’s contribution to FIEC during his life of ministry and send their condolences to the family and to members of the church family in Ramsbottom, with whom Ray was associated for so many years.
Tribute from Jeff Kinsley
I remember not long after I had been saved I spent a whole year working most days of the week on either Ray’s house, the church building or the building at Walkden: it was a precious time of fellowship and created a bond that will never be forgotten. During these times he often told me how for him the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon was to sit by the fire and read through the gospel of John. I think he must have done this many times because often when he preached he would quote great portions from this gospel from memory.
My abiding memory of Raymond is his obvious love for the Lord Jesus Christ. He often told how he became a Christian whilst in the army when he was given a copy of John’s gospel and “fell in love with Jesus”.
I remember him telling me that one of his favourite texts was John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”. He was always amazed at the grace and love of Christ for him, that the Jesus he read about in John’s gospel had bled and died for his sins; this I believe never left him: his love for Jesus was always his abiding characteristic.
I know Ray is in heaven now experiencing the love of Christ in all its fullness. I hope my faith and love for Christ remains as strong as Ray’s did and I look forward to that day in glory when I will meet with Ray again, shake his hand and join the anthem of praise around the throne of grace. May his life be an example for us to persevere unto that day.
Tribute from Maurice and Louise Blezard
In memory of a man who loved and served his Saviour faithfully, and whose teaching, example and encouragement has been such a blessing to us.
Tribute from Christine Stewert – Raymond’s Legacy across generations
Raymond and Muriel have been wonderful servants for the Lord, bringing many people to the knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, with much support and kindness along the way. We have many lovely memories of them both when in Walkden and will always remember the work they did with both young and old alike.
Although you will all miss them you have the satisfaction of knowing that Raymond just fell asleep and then he was with the Lord. How wonderful for him. Our children have continued with that nurturing since we came to Cornwall with a lovely church family who carried on where Raymond and Muriel left them. Now our grandchildren have that wonderful love of our Lord!
A tribute from Nicholas Boardman – About Raymond
I first met Raymond when I was going to Walkden Evangelical church, and very soon afterwards I gave myself to Jesus – I became a Christian. In those early years I was taught by Raymond, a godly man who loved Jesus, loved His word and preached in ways of depth yet simplicity. I am grateful for his wonderful ministry to God’s Church and to me in particular. I was with him the hour before he died. We spoke of his favourite book of the bible, the Song Of Solomon. He told me that his favourite passage was chapter 2:10-17, which speaks of spring: a new beginning.
Raymond has a new beginning now – a spring that will be forever spring!
A poem about Raymond Gregory by Jean Wilson
Trinity Grace in Ramsbottom was surely in God’s plan
When over fifty years ago He called a certain man,
To lead His church in Summerseat, in answer to a prayer,
Which was made by some old ladies, met in a garage there.
They having heard of Raymond’s skill in teaching Holy Writ,
Invited him to come and preach and teach them all of it.
Of course, when Raymond got the call he answered,
“Yes I will”,
For when God calls the Christian he must the task fulfill.
Both Ray and his wife Muriel, as well as Summerseat,
Worked in Skelmersdale and Walkden,
their mission to complete.
So Ray, whilst we are sad you’ve gone,
great joy still fills our hearts,
For now with Muriel you will be where death no more will part.
In Summerseat it all began, in answer to a prayer,
So those old ladies, I am sure, will certainly be there.
We too at that great feast in heaven when stands
the blood-bought throng
Of folks you’ve helped along the way to join salvation’s song.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
Raymond’s Favourite Hymn – Immortal Honours
Immortal honours rest on Jesus’ head;
My God, my portion, and my Living Bread;
In Him I live, upon Him cast my care;
He saves from death, destruction, and despair.
He is my Refuge in each deep distress;
The Lord my strength and glorious righteousness;
Through floods and flames He leads me safely on,
And daily makes His sovereign goodness known.
My every need He richly will supply;
Nor will His mercy ever let me die;
In Him there dwells a treasure all divine,
And matchless grace has made that treasure mine.
O that my soul could love and praise Him more,
His beauties trace, His majesty adore;
Live near His heart, upon His bosom lean;
Obey His voice, and all His will esteem.
William Gadsby (1773-1844)
Raymond’s Advice to young preachers
On one occasion when Raymond was accompanying a preacher that he had been training, the young man realised that he had left his notes behind, and so asked the experienced man if he could possibly step in and take his place. Raymond was friendly but forthright in insisting that he should carry on anyway and “you’ll be alright.” With Raymond’s support, the young man managed to preach his message!
When one of the members of his preachers group sat down in the middle of a sermon and said that he could not finish what he had prepared to say, Raymond stood up and insisted that he continue. The young man did so, and is still preaching today!
On another occasion Raymond offered one of his protégés a tantalising prospect: “How would you like to have a book with all my sermon notes in it?” The young man’s eyes lit up as he saw himself saved from hours of preparation and propelled ahead of all his colleagues in one go! Raymond smiled, reached for his Bible and thrusting it towards the young man he said “There you are – a full set of all my sermon notes.”
Raymond’s favourite sayings
- Motivation for those with ideas: “He who has the vision gets the job.”
- Advice to young preachers: “Stand up, speak up, shut up!”
- Encouragement to young men: “It’s a hard life for a young lad.”