• 16 February 2012

Death of Tom Smail

Bishop Harold pays personal tribute to a great theologian and friend:

Tom Smail was one of the great theologians of Charismatic Renewal in these islands, and a great friend and colleague. He entered into eternity on 15 February 2012, trusting in the Lord.

Those who knew him in Northern Ireland might have encountered him in a range of different ways. He was, for a time in the 1960s, minister of Whiteabbey Presbyterian Church. I first heard his name when at Belfast High School, just down the road from that church, when the power of the Holy Spirit was being experienced there in a particularly focused way. Later he became the Director of the Fountain Trust, an organization encouraging Charismatic renewal in churches. During that time Tom often spoke very powerfully and theologically, at the large Dublin renewal conferences in the RDS.

My first real meeting with him was when he and I joined the staff of St John’s College, Nottingham on the same day in 1979. He was a warm and strong–minded person, with a healthy determination both to receive what was good in renewal, and to critique things he believed should be challenged; and he was a very popular teacher firmly grounded in his old lecturer, Karl Barth.

During his time at St John’s he was ordained as an Anglican, but he never lost his love for the metrical psalms and paraphrases of his Church of Scotland roots. He has left us a range of classic books, such as The Forgotten Father, on the first person of the Trinity, Windows on the Cross, on the second, and Reflected Glory on the work of the Spirit.

My last meeting with Tom was last August, when I went to see him at St Barnabas’ Home in Lingfield, Surrey, where John Stott was also a resident. We put the world to rights theologically, had a Thai lunch, and then he drove me to see Truda, his wife, who is suffering from dementia. He was greatly loved and will be greatly missed.

The way he wanted to be described at the end was in some of the last words to me: ‘A sheep of God’s own fold, a lamb of God’s own flock, a sinner of God’s own redeeming’. Thank you, Tom, for all you gave us. You are Christ’s forever.