Rev Joe Cotterill
The Reverend Joe Cotterill was born in 1917 in a mining village in South Yorkshire where the family was active in the Primitive Methodist Chapel. When he was twelve the family moved to Manchester. He left school at the age of fifteen after taking School Certificate, and continued his education part-time whilst working in an analytical chemist's laboratory. He graduated from the Manchester College of Technology in Chemistry at the age of twenty. In Manchester the family had joined a newly built mission church where he was active in young people's work. The church grew to over three hundred members. During this time he became interested in missionary work, and aged twenty-two he left England for Kalgan in North China.
China was by then partly occupied by the Japanese. In Kalgan Joe settled down to the study of Mongolian and Chinese, but the hostile Japanese Military arrested his native teacher, and he found it necessary to move to Beijing to continue his studies in a Chinese language school. As he progressed in the language he helped in an American Bible school for new Chinese Christian workers.
Things changed dramatically in December 1941, when the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbour and war was declared between America and Britain and Japan. After a period of house arrest, he was interned with 1800 enemy nationals in Weihsien Camp in Shantung province. There he met and married an English missionary teacher Jeanne Hills. When war ended in August 1945, Joe and his new wife returned to Beijing to continue missionary work. In May 1946 they were repatriated to England.
The takeover of China by Communists, and the death of Jeanne's father made return to China impossible. With his Chemistry credentials, Joe obtained a position in the Scientific Civil Service, working in the Atomic Energy field. In 1968 he moved to the Scientific Advisory branch of the Home Office, and continued there till retirement.
During this time two oportunities offered themselves to continue in active Christian service. He accepted a request to take over as lay-pastor for a group of Christians establishing a new church outside Gillingham, Kent. At the same time he became a leader in a Crusader class in nearby Rochester. Crusaders was a Christian organisation started in 1907 to reach out to schoolboys. Classes were held on Sunday afternoon and many other activities were arranged during the week. Many camps catering for up to a hundred boys were organised. Joe remained active in Crusaders into the 1980's, including membership in the Holidays Committee and General Committee. In 1953 he helped lead a walking holiday in the spur of the Atlas mountains in Algeria for 25 senior schoolboys, kicking off similar expeditions abroad. The furthest East was to Palestine, to the West, the Canadian Rockies.
In 1949, Joe began studying by correspondence courses and evening classes for a London University diploma and degree in Theology. This kept him busy for ten years. After a family move to Sidcup, Kent, Jeanne and Joe and their son Rowland became members of The Anglican Church, and Joe took over leadership of the Young People's Fellowship. Joe and later Jeanne became lay-readers in Christchurch, Sidcup. Some years after, The Bishop of Rochester asked them to move to St. John's, Erith, to fill a need there.
After a second retirement from the Home Office they moved to Southmoor and became active as lay-readers in Kingston Bagpuize, Fifield and Tubney. Following Jeanne's death in 1988, Joe was invited to assist at All Saints, Marcham, where the vicar, David Pritchard, had just been made Area Dean. David persuaded Joe to apply for ordination. Well past the normal age, Joe was ordained deacon in 1993, and priested a year later. When David Pritchard moved on Joe continued his ministry in Marcham until the arrival of the new incumbent. In 2001 the Area Dean of Abingdon asked Joe to help in other local churches in need. Later on he was asked also to help in the Vale of the White Horse Deanery. In 2002 Joe married Joyce, a friend from old China Days. She remembers that Joe filled the pulpits of 39 village churches, sometimes doing 3 or 4 services on a Sunday morning.
After Keith Triplow's retirement from Kingston Bagpuize, Fifield and Tubney, Joe assisted during the interregnum by taking all of the 9 o.clock services at Kingston. Keith's successor, David Pickering asked him to continue doing two services a month.