A witness to peace in person and around the globe

John Johansen-Berg

The United Reformed Church is saddened to hear of the death in November of the Revd John Johansen-Berg, Moderator of the URC General Assembly 1980-1981, who served at Luton and Dunstable, with the Birkenhead Team Ministry, at the Rock Centre, Liverpool, at Fulham Palace Road and at Rubery.

John was Chair of the Fellowship of Reconciliation from 2005-17. During his time, he oversaw the move into Peace House in Oxford, helped grow the International Peacemakers’ Fund and guided the Fellowship through its centenary year.

He was also active for over 30 years establishing and running the Barnes Close-based Community for Reconciliation. This created a UK-based network and nutured global relationships. This community has evolved into Seedbeds, run from The Greenhouse in Barnes Close, run by URC Minister the Revd Ash Barker.

John’s time as a public face for the Fellowship included engaging the media (pictured) when he attended vigils in support of fellow trustee, Norman Kember, who had been taken hostage in Iraq. His authority in the media came, in part, from his significant catalogue of publications of prayer and worship material focussed on peace and nonviolence.

Richard Bickle, who took over from John as Chair said: “John Johansen-Berg was a significant peacemaker, liturgist and theologian of the post-Second World War era. He was a respected voice for peace within his own Church, the URC, and co-founded the Community for Reconciliation as a way to enable and resource practical peacemaking in the UK and around the world, with a particular interest in the Balkans after the 1990s wars. He also played a part in activating churches towards healing in Rwanda after the genocide.”

“In retirement, John took on chairing the Fellowship of Reconciliation at a time of transition in its history. He lead the recruitment of two successive Directors, the relocation of the office from rural Cambridgeshire to the city of Oxford, a time of growth in the fellowship’s work, funded by a number of large legacies and external funding.

“John was committed to interfaith dialogue and understanding. He valued this part of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation tradition and introduced these ideas and practices to friends, colleagues and congregations throughout his long ministry.”

Chris Cole, who a Director of the Fellowship when John was chair, said: “John dedicated his life to peace, and in particular, a peace that was rooted in prayer. Whether with church leaders at an international ecumenical conference or outside a military base with protestors, his work and his witness was for nonviolence rooted in scriptures and prayer. Tireless in his work for peace, he will be much missed.”

John was the husband of Joan, father of Mark, Heidi, and Jake, and grandfather of Billy, Milo, Jack, Ellie, Woody and Catie. A celebration of John’s life was held at Collinwood Road URC on December 16.

Written by John Cooper and Andy Jackson. Image: Fellowship of Reconciliation