The clergyman who founded the Iwerne Minster ministry to England’s elite public schools through evangelistic summer camps has come back under the spotlight following the death in July of the Anglican evangelical leader, Dr John Stott.
The Revd E.J.H. Nash (1898–1982), ‘Bash’ as he liked to be nicknamed, founded Iwerne in the Thirties. It was through his ministry that John Stott, a pupil at Rugby School, was converted to faith in Jesus Christ just before the start of the Second World War. He became an ‘officer’ (leader) on the camps, then held at Clayesmore School in the Dorset village of Iwerne Minster.
Iwerne is still going, though the camps are now held in Norfolk. I went to Iwerne as a schoolboy and then as an undergraduate in the Eighties. Though it would be quite preposterous to describe me as remotely, in the Iwerne parlance, a ‘strategic boy’, an academic or sporting Tom Brown whose conversion would produce a spiritual domino effect among his peers, I was nurtured in my Christian faith through this specialist ministry.
It is not the fault of anyone that they are institutionalized in the English boarding school system from the age of eight. The fact that Iwerne was prepared to bring the Gospel to those so spiritually and emotionally disadvantaged is surely something to thank God for, even it did perceive its intended targets as ‘strategic’ in producing an evangelistic trickle-down effect nationally. This has manifestly not happened.
Clearly, in order for Iwerne to do its work, Christian men and women have needed to stay in that world and evangelize within it. Arguably, too many converted through Iwerne have been spiritually and socially unadventurous and have clung to affluent churches with a big name Iwerne preacher. But some converted through Iwerne are serving Christ out of the Home Counties comfort zone. The Gospel does that to people.
There is a still a role for Iwerne in reaching a particular and in many ways disadvantaged section of the population and teaching them the message of grace from the living God which transcends social class.