Saturday, 20 July 2024

Br Peter Madsen Gubi (1930-2023)

Before Peter died he wrote out a brief story of his life which was used as part of the address at his funeral at Fairfield on 28th December 2023. This obituary uses part of this Lebenslauf and the words in italics are by Sr Sarah Groves.

I was born on the 3rd of May 1930, on the American island of St. Thomas in the West Indies. I had a Danish father and an English mother, which made me an Anglo-Danish-American-West Indian and, as I increased in age and stature, my nationality became a problem.

When I was eight years old, we moved to Barbados and lived at Sharon, in the parish of St. Thomas, just as World War Two began. There were five of us children, with several acres on which to roam without leaving the premises. Much of it was under cultivation by church members, as tenants, but we also had our acre and, as children, we were expected to do our share of the required work. It was wartime and, if we didn't grow our own food, we didn't eat!

When Germany occupied France, the islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe became German territory and were used as submarine bases. As a result, many of the ships which supplied the islands with food and other goods were torpedoed, making things like rice and flour, and petrol, scarce and rationed.

When the war ended, we moved to Antigua where I became a pupil at the Antigua Grammar School and, after leaving, got my first job at the Antigua Sugar Factory in the weighing office, weighing the sugar cane as it came into the factory from the fields by train. In 1947, my parents were due for furlough, and we all came to England, where my brother and sisters continued their education at Fulneck, and I entered Fairfield College and Manchester University to train for the ministry.

That's when my complicated nationality caused problems. Under British law, I was a Danish citizen and, because Denmark had been occupied by the Germans during the war, I was suspected of being a collaborator with the Germans and had to report to the police every two weeks in order to assure them that I was not subverting the nation. Being sympathetic to the Germans was the last thing any Dane would be, but it was too soon after the war, and people were still a bit jittery. Father solved the problem by getting us all naturalised British - even himself.

My first year in Fairfield was spent at night school in Manchester. In the winter, this meant turning out in the frost and polluted smog, when the bus conductor had to walk alongside the bus to let the driver know where he was. In the holidays, we all lived in Brockweir which, in those days, had no electricity or water, apart from the village pump and the river. House and church were heated by coal and wood, which we salvaged from the river. I worked on the farm next door during the holidays to boost my meagre funds.

In addition to the official list of subjects to be studied at Fairfield, I learned how to develop and print black-and-white photographs, with the help of Dick Connor for whom it was a hobby. I was also introduced to the mysteries of electronics by John Smith and Harry Bintley, both of whom had been involved in radio and television construction and maintenance before entering college.

After completing my training, I got a job at B & S Massey in Droylsden, first as a labourer and then as a metal turner. The firm produced machine tools, and I operated a 12-foot lathe which turned out giant pistons and crank shafts for use in drop hammers and other large machines.

In due course, I was ordained at Fairfield by Bishop Connor, and called to the Eastern West Indies Province as the minister of Cedar Hall, Gracebay, and Five Islands, congregations. The first six years of my ministry were spent on the move. Being single, I was the easiest and cheapest person to move, and my first responsibility lasted for one year when I was called to St. Kitts to the Cayon congregation and, later on, Basseterre was added while my parents went on furlough.

My main congregation there was Calvary in Bridgetown, with Fulneck and Gracehill. The unit had been without a resident minister for four years and I was welcomed, whoever I was. But within a year, I was called to Tobago. I had not lived in Tobago before, and I enjoyed the different trees and birds, and insects.

The time came when I returned to the congregations in Barbados. The termites had been slowly eating the woodwork in the church in Bridgetown while no one was looking, and the congregation decided to scrap all the wooden items at the front of the church and replace them in concrete. Not a single voice was raised in protest, and we all lived happily afterward for at least two years, during which time I married Joyce Gibbs, a Methodist Sunday School teacher. After furlough we were called to St. Kitts, to the Basseterre and Cayon congregations again, and to be Superintendent of the Conference once more.

Our stay in St. Kitts was for three years, during which time our daughter Anne was born. In 1963, hurricane Flora hit Tobago destroying five of our churches and one manse. In 1964, we were called to Tobago to rebuild the damage. My son, Peter was about to be born, so Joyce remained in Barbados with her sister, while I went to Tobago to find somewhere for us to live while the rebuilding went on. I was appointed Superintendent of Tobago and also Trinidad. After collecting the family from Barbados, we lived in rented accommodation while the manse at Moriah was built. Then we were called to Barbados again where we lived at Mt Tabor and I also looked after four smaller congregations. After a year, we were called to Bridgetown once more, with its three smaller congregations, where we enjoyed our stay until 1975. I had difficulties obtaining a residence and work permit, and so we decided to move to this country, to serve in the British Province. We came to Lower Wyke with Wellhouse.

The move to England was hard, particularly for Joyce. The stipend was very poor and ministers with children qualified for income support from the state. So, whilst Peter served the congregations in Yorkshire he also worked as a postman in Bradford.

Peter then moved to the West Country and served Swindon with Tytherton for 16 years and additionally Malmesbury for four years. He also served the Tytherton and Brockweir congregations during interregnums.

I knew Peter as a quiet man who would sit without much comment at Minister's Conference whilst others said much out loud. But when you chatted to him later a dry sense of humour and much wisdom would emerge. As well as serving his congregations he also served the Province on the Finance Committee, Renewal Committee and Church Book Committee and served as Vice Chair of Synod for a number of years.

Joyce died in 2011 after a long illness and, after living for a few more years in Tytherton, I moved to Crewe to live with our son, and joined the Dukinfield congregation where I took the occasional service, preached and played the organ. And, as if to complete a full circle, I recently became a member at Fairfield due to my son being called to serve there.
I've had a long, varied, and enjoyable life, and I leave it with few regrets. So, until we meet again, farewell.

Peter's calling to the ministry was for a lifetime and his faith sustained him through the good, interesting and the difficult times. His faith was deep and his preaching intelligent, his concern was always to leave his congregations with words that would sustain them through the coming week. The Old Testament Watchword for the 4th December, the day of his death was from Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid for I am your God.

Peter's cremated remains will be interred in Brockweir Moravian Church God's Acre where his wife is buried.

Sr Sarah Groves

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