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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

25 June 2014: Rev'd John Owen, Vicar of Steep and Froxfield with Privett

A muscular Christian

Rev'd John Owen - Vicar of Steep and Froxfield with PrivettI recently spent a few days at Gladstone's Residential Library in Hawarden, north Wales. It was built by the politician and statesman, William Gladstone, for the benefit of the nation, and opened for use in the early 1900s. Since then it has continued to be available for study by a wide range of people - not only clergy and ministers, but researchers, writers and novelists, as well as members of other faiths in addition to Christianity.

Everywhere there is evidence of Gladstone's life and energy. His personal library of books forms the heart of the collection, and many of these are signed and annotated by the great man himself. Late into his eighties, when he was still strong and hearty, he helped move his books in a wheel barrow, from his home at Hawarden Castle, into the new library. Nearby is Hawarden Station, which allowed him to travel up from Westminster to his home.

In the middle of an incredibly active political life, spread over more than eight decades, he still made time for his large family, for his hobby of tree felling, and most of all for reading. He would devour more books in a week than I manage to read in a year. Not only that, but he studied and published his own work. And when his end came, he took to his bed, exhausted, telling his wife, 'I am waiting, only waiting.'

Gladstone made as many mistakes in his life as other people do, and lived a very full life, enjoying good health and engaging with the big issues of his day, always looking out across the world and its problems through the eyes of Christian faith. He was attracted by what was then called 'muscular Christianity', just like Abraham Lincoln across the water. He was shaped by the long-gone British Empire, but his personal faith and discipleship can still be admired. It's good to have his memory preserved in the Library at Hawarden.

This article was submitted for publication in the Petersfield Post on 20 June; it is possible that it was published earlier or may be published later.

See photographs of the IMC Quiz evening last Friday - £459.17 was raised!

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