Derek James Prime (1931 – 2020)
A tribute to a former pastor and past-president of FIEC who went to be with the Lord on 28 March 2020.
At the FIEC Local Conferences this year, we have considered the instruction to remember our leaders who spoke the Word of God to us.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:7-8)
It is an instruction given to help us persevere as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ in our generation. My personal list of ‘leaders to remember’ includes my dad, Derek Prime, who went to be with our Lord Jesus in heaven on Saturday 28th March 2020.
He was my dad; my pastor until I was in my mid-twenties; my closest human adviser; and a consistent example of faithful discipleship and Christ-centred, cross-shaped, pastoral ministry. What he preached, he lived; what he lived, he preached.
Together with my mum Betty, who died in 2007, he lived by faith in the Son of God who loved him and gave himself for him. His favourite hymn, “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds In a Believer’s Ear” reflected his desire, at all times, to keep his eyes fixed upon our Lord Jesus and to proclaim him to others.
Dad loved the Lord and he loved people. Some may think the most fruitful period of his life was his time as pastor of Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh, but I wonder if eternity will reveal that his years of retirement were even more fruitful.
He was a persistent evangelist always with a New Testament or a copy of his book, This Way to Life, to give away. In the week of his sudden death, he told me on the phone that he had given a copy to his doctor who had come to see him. He held a weekly Bible class for the residents of the retirement flats where he lived, concerned for the salvation of those nearing the end of their lives.
Despite increasing physical frailty, he was a great Barnabas to pastors and many others: welcoming them young and old; taking an interest in them; answering their questions; praying with them; adding them to his lengthy prayer diary. Latterly ‘being quiet’ took up a big chunk of any morning!
Conversion at Lansdowne
From a non-Christian family, he was converted in his teens through a Bible class at Lansdowne Evangelical Free Church, West Norwood. He was then nurtured and grew under the influence of godly men and women of that local FIEC church. National service and time at the University of Cambridge were significant and it was in his third year at Cambridge that he changed courses to theology, as a result of a growing sense of a call to pastoral ministry.
While teaching at Battersea Grammar School he was invited to be an elder at Lansdowne, with most of the other elders being old enough to be his father. After a prayer meeting one Monday night, one of the elders sat down beside him and said: “Derek, the elders have met without you, and we believe the Lord is saying to us that you should be the next pastor of the church.”
He spent 12 fruitful years as pastor at Lansdowne. Interestingly, a member of the congregation was the founder of FIEC, E J Poole-Connor, whose funeral Dad conducted in 1962. During this period Dad became involved in the council of the FIEC and served as its president in 1966.
Ministry at Charlotte Chapel
In 1969 he was invited to serve as the pastor of Charlotte Baptist Chapel, Edinburgh, where he loved and cared for the flock as he shared with them both the Word of God and his life. Only eternity will reveal those who were converted during that time from all over the world. Not a Sunday went by without him urging people to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
My sister Esther, my brother Tim, and I, together with the wider family of grandchildren and great-grandchildren have already received numerous appreciations from around the world. Physically my dad was a wee man, only five foot four and a half inches - and shrinking. A wee man whom God chose to have a huge influence on many around the world.
Only today, I received a message from an FIEC pastor trained by one of the assistants that Dad trained. He wrote: “Although I never met him, he felt like something of a grandfather in the faith to me.” That pastor is not alone!
So, with many others, I remember my dad with great gratitude, not least because he faithfully taught me (and many others) the Word of God.
I consider the outcome of his way of life: a fleshed-out example of what it means to live, suffer, and die with persevering faith in our Lord Jesus. All with the result that I desire to imitate his unwavering faith in our unchanging Lord Jesus, relying on the Holy Spirit just as he did.
As Dad would often quote: “For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36)
Below you can watch the last time he spoke in public - a testimony given at Charlotte Chapel in 2019.