Obituary: Michael Toogood
Michael Toogood was a quiet, gentle, humble and unassuming Christian gentleman. On the morning of Sunday 12 February 2023 he departed this life to be with the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he loved and served for much of his life.
Michael was born and brought up in Borough Green. He did not enjoy good health and missed quite a lot of school. He developed considerable artistic talents, and from 1951 to 1956 studied at Maidstone College of Art. He then worked as a graphic designer and typographer in London from 1956 until 1962.
In the autumn of 1962 he was set apart by his church in Bexleyheath as an evangelist and then as a pastor. From 1966 to 1975 he served the church in New Cross. He spent 1975 to 1982 in Thamesmead, a new area of housing on the south bank of the Thames. Here he was responsible for planting a Grace Baptist church. He will be best remembered for the next twenty years of his life because of his work as a church planter in Soho. Churches were planted there, in Covent Garden and in Mayfair. Few men would have been willing to pay the price and undergo the sacrifices he made, with his wife Pam, and his children, to go and live and work in Soho. Despite what lay before them, Michael was firmly persuaded that this was the Lord’s work. Despite many setbacks and continued difficulties he remained undaunted by the magnitude of the task. He proved to be a diligent, patient, and persevering gospel labourer. His evangelistic and pastoral output from those years, measured only in bound booklets of Bible studies produced for those who gathered in various venues, show his wisdom, his affection, and his adaptability in bringing the truth to bear upon the souls of men and women. After he retired he was encouraged to write up his story, now published as Mission to Soho: Where Two Worlds Meet (DayOne).
Michael retired to the east of Kent, but continued to be active each day, being part of the ministry team at St James’ Church, Westgate-on-Sea, together with John Cheeseman. After his beloved wife died of cancer, Michael eventually came to live in the village of Charlwood in Surrey with some of his family. Given his age and health, he might, like many others, have spent his last years in relative ease and quiet. Not so Michael! To the very end of his life he was busy seeking to make Christ known. He would walk his dogs and engage in conversation with other walkers in the village. He attended the local parish church and from there he conducted Bible studies, wrote notes on different passages of Scripture which he distributed to ‘the regulars’, gathered a few to pray, distributed books and produced tracts, continuing to put his own artistic skills to good use. He was even able to preach occasionally in the Anglican church, though they tried to limit him to ten minute sermons! Notably, having participated in the renovation of an old chapel building in Charlwood, he did the lion’s share of arranging a gospel service as part of its reopening, at which perhaps over a hundred people heard the good news being proclaimed.
As elders at Maidenbower Baptist Church in Crawley, the authors of this piece enjoyed regular fellowship with Michael. Austin Walker, closer to Michael in age, enjoyed the privilege of phoning him every other week. Michael battled with loneliness, feeling the loss of his wife keenly; losing his dogs was another challenge he faced in his last few months. The older men would often speak for an hour if Michael’s fairly fragile health permitted him to do so—a reduced lung capacity and regular chest afflictions often made Michael breathless and weary. It was a time of mutual fellowship and encouragement. Often their conversation would be about the challenges of old age and the opportunities of still serving Christ. But the choicest conversations were those they had about the Saviour and the prospects of glory. Jeremy Walker had the privilege of supporting Michael in the gospel work in Charlwood. Michael had a remarkable talent for getting a hearing for the gospel, together with a cultivated winsomeness in speaking of Christ married to a tenacious commitment to speaking the truth in love. He delighted to hear about other gospel labour, and would happily spend a couple of hours in his Charlwood home, enjoying the views across the fields, drinking coffee and speaking of God’s work in its various aspects. He was a wonderful encourager in gospel work, both by sterling example and by gentle exhortation and commendation. To minister to Michael was to go away blessed. His humble and heartfelt prayers lifted the spirits of God’s people. He spoke often of his love for Pam, and regularly expressed his affection and concern for his whole family, and his gratitude for their care of him.
Toward the end of his life, his health problems became more apparent. Regular lung problems often kept him holed up at home for long periods, unable to enjoy the exercise, fellowship, and service he so much appreciated. In the last few weeks of his life he spent much of the time in hospital, finally being called home with family at his side for his last breaths. Having served his Lord and Master for many years, and long looking forward to being reunited with his wife in glory, like her he has now gone to be with Christ, which is better by far than all he knew below.
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