Remembering Joe

I was sorry to receive an email, a few days ago, telling me of the death of Joe Story. At the time we joined ACW, Joe was  a member of the Committee; possibly Events Organizer, I’m not sure. I was by no means a special friend of his: I was contacted because I was on the mailing list for his daily expository notes, which I noticed had ceased to arrive some time ago.

What a brilliant surname for a writer: Story. I only wish I knew more of Joe’s story, but I’m pretty sure it was a remarkable one. I know that he was an expert chef and had once worked in that capacity. This was the first thing I learnt about him, because at the ACW’s 40th anniversary celebrations in 2011 he not only made the cakes, but kindly provided a dairy-free one for lactose-intolerant members. 

I believe that he worked for a while in a Christian bookshop in Northampton. More importantly, he was a church leader there and got involved in a big initiative to bring the gospel to some deprived parts of the city. It was a movement involving several churches. Joe’s allegiance was to Christ first. He did not set much store by loyalty to particular churches and traditions.

I don’t know what kind of writing brought Joe into the ACW, but latterly he was busy producing a series of doctrinal —  or perhaps I should say explanatory — pamphlets on important Christian topics, such as baptism or speaking in tongues. These he published himself under the imprint of the Unboring Book Company: the strapline was ‘God’s not boring’. You could read them online for free as well as buying them, because Joe’s priority was to get his message across, not to make money or make a name for himself.

My acquaintance with Joe was based almost entirely on a lovely long conversation we had at Scargill in the mid-2010s. We came from very different backgrounds, but Joe had such a warm personality that we got on really well. For some reason we found ourselves talking about the ‘Just William’ books, of which I had read a few, but Joe was an expert on them, and had a large collection. He took my address, and afterwards sent me a parcel of several of the books from his stock.

This was how I ended up on the mailing list for Joe’s daily expositions. These did not continue non-stop: he would select a topic and send a carefully thought-out series of studies, one per day, for a week or so, and then there would be an interval. My churchmanship and theology are very different from his, but despite such differences between people there is always a strong connection if they are committed to following Christ. Joe’s logical, intelligent arguments and insistence on reading Scripture without confessional spectacles were really inspiring. I regret that I never got round to thanking him for these studies. Curiously, the last study I have in my inbox was on Psalm 2; Joe wrote: ‘Not only at the time of the Psalmist, but repeatedly throughout history, nations have raged, and those in authority have plotted together against God and his Christ.’ This was on 15 February, nine days before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Joe was a real old-school ACWer, typical of the Committee of that time, with a grounding in solid real-life experience, a serious attitude to life, an ecumenical inclusiveness of spirit, a lack of cliquiness, and a profound sense of humour. I expect that a proper appreciation by people who knew him well will be published in due course. This is just a salutation from a remote acquaintance.

PS: At the time of writing, Joe’s website was still available:

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