Minister and missionary
Born: 10 February 1937; Died: 15 May 2014
JOHN Weir Cook, who has died at the age of 77, was a minister in India and then a much loved and respected parish minister in Scotland. Born in Greenock, the eldest of three brothers, he was educated at Greenock Academy, the High School of Glasgow and at Glasgow University. After graduating in arts, he studied divinity at Trinity College, winning the prestigious Peter Marshall Scholarship to Princeton Theological Seminary, USA in 1960-61.
In the late 1950s, divinity students were somewhat restrained, not to say douce. John Weir Cook was neither: gregarious, boisterous, witty, iconoclastic, he won a reputation as a fine preacher, and someone who could captivate a teenage audience initially expecting to be bored even by a young minister.
Following his time in the USA, he took up his first charge at St Andrew's Church, Calcutta. The Kirk's General Assembly was told that within a year the congregation very readily responded to new initiatives proposed by him.
A bursary was funded to support an Indian student through the divinity course at Serampore and up to 40 attended monthly discussion groups. Amongst his many achievements, he was proudest of including Indian families in the worship of the Scots Kirk by persuading the Session to agree to join the Presbyterian Church of North India. His pastoral work took him throughout Bengal and as far north as the foothills of the Himalayas where he formed a strong attachment with Dr Graham's Homes, the Kirk's school for orphans in Kalimpong. He welcomed may of the school's students during holidays in Calcutta andhe helped sponsor Mary and Joan Chalke, graduates of the school in Kalimpong, to study nursing in his home town of Greenock.
He left India in 1969 and became minister of Henderson Church in Kilmarnock. In 1988 he moved to Portobello, to St Philip's Joppa Church where he remained until he retired in 2002.
He had boundless energy and a lively personality and is remembered as someone who always injected a freshness to worship and a contemporary interpretation of ceremonial order. He believed strongly in dignity and structure in worship, but neither excluded opportunities for laughter. His work in support of the Clinical Theology Association helped supplement his pastoral strengths as a counsellor and parish minister.
The Rev Dr Alison Jack, who was his assistant for several years, said of John Weir Cook, that he "taught me how to make every visit count. Take your coat off, sit forward in your chair, listen hard, and give people a hug. He was a great wordsmith, crafting his sermons and prayers with great care".
He enjoyed rugby, golf, football but most of all cricket. His fanatacism for Greenock Morton and Scotland rugby together with his often asserted conviction that he would one day play cricket for Scotland, illustrate again his limitless faith. He was a noted after-dinner speaker and amongst Scottish and especially Burns' communities throughout the world.
He had a large family and enjoyed nothing more than celebrating convivial occasions amongst his kin in the Gnomes of Greenock or at the family cottage on the Isle of Arran. He is survived by his three children, Peter, Sarah and Noel, six grandchildren, his wife Elizabeth and his partner Dorothy.
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