A funeral thanksgiving service for Mike Ovey took place yesterday at Enfield Evangelical Free Church, the local church which Mike and his family made their spiritual home for many years. A packed church of close friends, colleagues and Oak Hill staff across the years joined Mike’s family to thank God for his life and to pay personal tribute to him for ‘proclaiming repentance and the forgiveness of sins, and equipping others to procaim that as well,’ in the words of Jonathan Prime, the Pastor of Enfield Evangelical Free Church.
We are aware that a much larger group, including former students and the wider church network, will want to give thanks for Mike’s life and work. The date and location for the wider thanksgiving service for Mike Ovey will be announced very shortly.
Appreciations of Mike were given by Greg Strain, a member of Mike and Heather Ovey’s Bible study group in the 1980s; Andrew Cornes, with whom Mike served as a curate at All Saint’s, Crowborough; Nick Tucker, one of Mike’s former students, who became a colleague at Oak Hill; Dan Strange, the Vice Principal of Oak Hill; and Jonathan Prime.
Greg Strain, who met Mike and Heather at St Helen’s Bishopsgate before they were married, and when Mike was still a parliamentary draughtsman, spoke of Mike as ‘a wonderful friend, deeply knowledgeable, humble, gentle, loving and faithful.’
Andrew Cornes paid tribute to Mike for being ‘such a trenchant and wise commentator on the contemporary world and church’, citing his contribution to the GAFCON Global Anglican Futures conference in Nairobi in 2013. He asked, ‘What other speaker would quote in one talk Thomas Aquinas, the Anglican Homilies, the Roman Catholic Mazzini, the psychologists Twenge and Campbell (of whom I had never heard)… and Whitney Houston?’
‘Permeating it all was Mike’s own love for Christ as Saviour and life-changing Lord. That talk sent us out from GAFCON to be faithful to Christ whatever our circumstances or culture.’
Nick Tucker said, ‘He was a brilliant and creative theologian. But he was not just a theolgian; he was a theophile. He was clearly in awe and wonder at the glory and beauty of God, and in Mike this was simply infectious.’ He added, ‘We will remember Mike even more for his kindness than we do for his brilliance.’
Dan Strange, in a tribute entitled, ‘Just Mike’, described him as ‘totally immovable on healthy historical Christian orthodoxy: biblical innerrancy, penal subsititution, justification by faith alone. From the stands we’d cheer him on as time after time he’d deliver the killer blows against gangrenous false teaching and futile non-Christian worldviews. Boom! He was our theological heavyweight champion.’
Jonathan Prime revealed that on the night before he died, Mike and Heather had been at their church’s partnership prayer meeting, praying for the work of churches planted in the last 10 years. ‘I remember looking across to where Mike was as three former Oak Hill students spoke to us about the work the Lord Jesus has given them to do. And I sat there thinking how encouraging that must have been to Mike for him to hear. Because those three men are just three examples of gospel servants to whose training Mike made a massive contribution.’
The service, which was attended by former Oak Hill Principal, David Peterson, and co-founder of the Gospel Coalition, Don Carson, included a message by Daf Merion-Jones, the Senior Pastor of Chessington Evangelical Church. He spoke on 2 Timothy 4:1-8, where Paul gives his final charge to Timothy at the end of his life. He said, ‘What Paul says here was the heart of Mike’s ministry… “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction”.’
A complete recording of the thanksgiving service is available online on the Enfield Evangelical Free Church website. The five tributes can be found at the following times in the recording:
11:03 – Greg Strain
16:35 – Andrew Cornes
26:20 – Nick Tucker
34:29 – Dan Strange
42:58 – Jonathan Prime
55:38 – Daf Merion-Jones
Dan Strange’s tribute, Just Mike, has been posted in full on the Oak Hill blog.