With Mrs Harrison’s recent passing, I found these notes of the tribute given to Mr Harrison at his funeral in 2013. As we give thanks to God for Mrs Harrison perhaps this will serve as a reminder of what we owe as a church to the Harrison family. – Trevor McMillen
At his funeral in 2013 a statement of thanksgiving was given for the life of Mr Harrison. What follows contains the essence of what was said on that occasion but is not an exact transcript.
Statement of Thanksgiving
An impossible task
I have been asked to give a statement of thanksgiving for the life of Mr Harrison. In one sense that is an easy thing in that there is so much to give thanks for. But I am sure you will agree that in another sense it is an impossible task. How can I capture in a few moments a life that has touched so many people. I speak as someone who has known Mr Harrison for 37 years and been involved as a deacon or Elder in Emmanuel for almost all of that time. I am very aware that there are many of you who would want to speak about how you have known him, perhaps as a fellow minister, as a student in LTS or the TTC or as someone that he has helped along the way. While I obviously have much from my personal dealings with Mr Harrison to thank God for, there is much that has to be second hand. This is especially true because he was never one to blow his own trumpet. I know for example that he helped many other churches – not because he told me, but because others have told me with gratitude of the wise council and practical help they received. I am sure that there were many burdens he bore alone because he would respect people’s privacy. Even within the context of our own church he would keep confidences and there were many people he helped through particular problems when even the elders would only know the minimum necessary. This I am sure enabled many pastoral issues to be nipped in the bud. He was always someone who could be trusted to give wise advice based firmly on the word of God.
It has done me good to read some of the tributes that have appeared on the internet and to read the booklet that was produced on Mr Harrison’s retirement 3 years ago. I found myself agreeing so much with what was written and thanking God that I and my family have been privileged to have such a man as our minister for so many years. I will quote one or two extracts later but I encourage you to read these and offer your own thanks to God as you are reminded of the ministry that Mr Harrison exercised. The retirement booklet is on the Emmanuel-Newport website.
The wider ministry – hymn book
When I first came to Newport I heard that Mr Harrison and Paul Cook were working on a new hymn book – Christian Hymns. I have to say that my initial reactions was “Why do we need another hymn book?” As usual Mr Harrison knew better than I did. I cannot really assess the blessing I have known from Christian Hymns, introducing me to hymns that capture truth so wonderfully and stir the soul. This of course includes hymns by Mr and Mrs Harrison.
The wider ministry – theological training
The Hymn book was just one of the benefits of Mr Harrison’s ministry to the wider Christian community. As a church we were always glad to release him to lecture at LTS and at the TTC. For many years he used to bring students from the TTC to Emmanuel on Easter Sunday during their Easter residential week. This certainly swelled the singing of the great Easter Hymns but also gave the church opportunity to meet many of these men as hospitality was offered. We were left in no doubt as to the high esteem in which Mr Harrison was held as the men spoke appreciatively of their time on the TTC. The same was true of the many men from LTS who visited us over the years, including of course our current pastor, Bernard Lewis. Mr Harrison was of course one of the original lecturers at LTS and I well remember arriving at the opening meeting of LTS when Dr LLoyd Jones was preaching. Mr Harrison was waiting when Phil Watson and I arrived. He was waiting to ask Phil to play the organ. Perhaps I should put ask in inverted commas. He had a way of asking that was very difficult to refuse! Phil played the organ! We as a church undoubtedly benefited greatly from the wider ministry in which he was involved and he could relate to us as a congregation just as easily as he did to ministerial students.
Church Missionaries and ministry abroad
We have had the privilege of sending out missionaries from Emmanuel during Mr Harrison’s time. He visited all of them on the field and ministered in those situations as well as other locations around the world. Our missionaries and others have testified of the great support that he provided them throughout their missionary lives and their great affection for him.
The Local Church
Despite his leading involvement in other bodies such as I have mentioned and of course the EMW and AECW, Mr Harrison always said that the local church came first. In later years that is exactly what he put into practice as he reduced his involvement in other bodies and the last thing he relinquished was the ministry of this church. He of course continued to preach at every opportunity after retiring as the minister here. I think he would have echoed Paul’s words – “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel”.
Graham Harrison the Pastor
He preferred to be called the minister rather than the pastor, but that was not because he minimised the pastoral role. Far from it. He was an incredible pastor, always available at the drop of a hat for whatever issue had arisen. He was very much in tune with the people’s needs and he was always there when needed, even when not expected.
Example. I remember being told by one church member how other members of the family who did not attend Emmanuel expressed their gratitude that Mr Harrison had been asked to come when a loved one had died. They were very appreciative of the help and comfort that he brought to them. But the fact was that he had not been asked. Despite this being late at night he had simply come to the hospital knowing that time was short. He did not need to be asked – he was there and that was typical of the man.
Perhaps you will forgive me a less serious example from my own family. I was working away from home when my son Andrew decided he was giving up one of his Maths A Level courses. I told him that he was not to give it up and we would talk about it at the weekend when I was home. The following morning Andrew decided that the solution to not having done his homework was to stay in bed and not go to school. Nothing would persuade him to get up. Not being able to get hold of me, in desperation my wife Pauline called Mr Harrison. Problem solved! As Andrew put it “When Mr Harrison tells you to get up, you get up!”
Sometimes people may have regarded Mr Harrison as somewhat austere. As a minister of the gospel of course there were times when people may not have liked what he had to say and he never shirked saying what needed to be said. However, those who knew him best knew him to be a very kind, gentle and caring man. He was a man with very little small talk, but when he spoke it was invariably worth listening to. I think that is why he was at his best when faced with the great issues of life and death, particularly in funerals when we do not want small talk, we want to hear the things that really matter whether that is by way of comfort or by way of challenge as to our own standing before God. When he was in the pulpit, he was no entertainer but he brought us face to face with the issues of life and death and our need of God.
Preaching – quote Geraint Richards
” (more than in any man I have known) Mr Harrison knew how much he needed God the Holy Spirit to anoint his preaching with power and he regularly sought this for his own preaching, and mine, when we prayed together on those Friday afternoons.”
“He never sought to draw attention to himself but only to God, to Christ, to the Gospel! Mr Harrison is a ‘quiet man’, a man who feels his own weakness, but when he preaches it is with a God-given and God-glorifying authority.”
“I would just add that his preaching was marked by tenderness and winsomeness. He was never happier than when he was urging people to come to Christ.”
He had a very real sense of humour, a dry wit which he kept in check but used when appropriate. Just a small example – we had a number of Chinese weddings in Emmanuel involving translation. It caused considerable amusement when Mr Harrison and the translator swapped roles at one point with Mr Harrison speaking in Chinese and the translator in English.
He had a great love for travel, mountains and photography. For many years we as a church were privileged to attend the annual “At Home” when he would display photographs taken during his travels and speak about the places he and Mrs Harrison had visited, often with reference to the spiritual situation he observed. These were happy occasions often used to encourage others to enter the church building for an informal occasion. Such was the quality of the photographs on display that I often threatened to throw away my camera, but thankfully I never carried out the threat.
As a young man he enjoyed mountaineering but once married with a young daughter his love for his family overruled his love for the mountains and he gave up that pastime. He retained a good head for heights. On one occasion I did the Snowdon horseshoe with him and Mrs Harrison. He told me how when he was a student they used to cross the infamous ridge of Crib Goch with their hands behind their heads. When he wrote in the booklet prepared for his retirement he spoke affectionately and with great gratitude to God for Mrs Harrison his helpmeet. He kept his family private but he clearly loved them very much and was thrilled to become a grandfather in recent years.
He was a very decisive man. He always encouraged us to just get on and get things done. Many years ago I suggested that he might find it useful to have a personal computer. This was well before most people had computers. Before I knew it he had bought one and of course as he always did managed to get a very good deal. He always had an eye for a bargain.
There are 2 aspects of Mr Harrisons ministry that I personally thank God for.
1) When I arrived in Newport 37 years ago I had no sense of the need for revival. It did not take long under Mr Harrison’s ministry for this to be laid on my heart. I will quote some of Mr Harrison’s own words in a moment.
2) The first book he gave me to read was “The Experience Meeting”. I was deeply suspicious of a book with this title but I soon began to appreciate the emphasis on experimental Christianity rather than something that is merely of the mind. We had many Fellowship Meetings expertly led by Mr Harrison when we were encouraged to examine our relationship with God and not settle for something merely theoretical. To quote one of the Puritans that Mr Harrison used to quote we need “the knowledge of God that ascends from the head to the heart”.
Quotes from Mr Harrison regarding his ministry at Emmanuel
Speaks about the centrality of preaching the word of God
“I only wish that I had done it more powerfully and persuasively and with more evidence of God’s blessing upon it.”
“concern that our worship should be God honouring, not flippant and superficial.”
“Two other principles have governed my pulpit ministry. One has been each Sunday to have at least one service in which the message of the gospel is clearly preached. The other has been to urge upon the church both the necessity and the possibility of revival. Increasingly I am convinced that only a pouring forth of God’s Spirit on his church can change the situation. But I believe with all my heart that God can visit us again in this way.”
In these quotes he is pointing us to God – that’s what he did throughout his ministry. Much has been achieved although typical of the man he minimised anything he had done and he would want the glory to go to God. Our thanks go to God for giving us one who loved us and was greatly loved. He will be greatly missed.
He is in a far better place, but we are left behind. I am sure he would urge us in the words of his lovely paraphrase of Psalm 27:
Wait on the Lord, with courage wait,
and thy weak heart shall find
the mighty strength of God within
thy heart and soul and mind.