As City Centre Chaplain, appointed in 1987, Bob Mills quickly developed a trademark: when working he wore a beige suit and clerical shirt. He deliberately dressed to occupy a position which was neither management nor shop floor. He was instantly recognisable. Affectionately known by some as ‘Beige Bob’ he was available to all who worked in the city.
“… seek the welfare of the city …” (Jeremiah 29:7), provided a key text for Bob. He worked closely with the Broadmead Board and developers as they revitalised the city centre in response to the competition from out-of-town shopping centres. When, after 10 years, the initial grant from Home Mission tapered off the shops and offices helped to cover the cost of the chaplaincy.
Bob was a counsellor to many individuals working in the city as they faced life’s challenges. With the help of Miss Kathleen Blewett he ‘remembered’ countless anniversaries with cards and a personal greeting.
Bob’s ministry was underpinned by prayer. He often walked the four miles from home to his office in Broadmead for exercise and to create time and space for reflection. In the church he arranged a small chapel area where he conducted lunchtime services on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
It was my privilege, as the minister of Broadmead Baptist Church, to work alongside Bob from 1997 until he retired in 2009. Among the many things I learnt from him was the importance of recognising the Kingdom beyond the walls of the church.
by John Houseago
Bob came to College from the Horfield Church. He will be remembered by his fellow students for his boyish good looks, his beautiful bass singing voice, his quiet presence and his pastoral compassion. He had pastorates at Yeovil, Castle Bromwich and Keynsham. Then, the ministry to the people of Bristol City Commercial Centre, linked with the Broadmead Church was an amazing creative work of pastoral care, touching hundreds of lives. This was pioneering work, open and available to the city. It meant Bob having to face all manner of social and pastoral challenges. It was remarkable how quickly he gained the trust of the management, staff and customers of the big stores. He was the first minister I knew who carried a bleeper, being on call. He was known to be caring, full of integrity, who could keep confidences. People sought his care. This ministry needs remembering with careful reflection. He also gave great service as the secretary/treasurer of the Gesture Fund, that unique College expression of our mutual care in Christ. Many of us thank God for Bob’s letters and gifts of encouragement. Somehow he got to know of colleagues needs and he responded, a loving ministry. He was a faithful friend, full of compassion with wide missionary vision and love of people. He had a deep gift for leading others in prayer. His ministry was blessed by his marriage to Janet who cared for him especially in the last difficult months of illness.
by Brian Haymes