Hackney Church Champion Awestruck at 90th Surprise Birthday and Dedication Service

Hackney Church Champion Awestruck at 90th Surprise Birthday and Dedication Service

Zinze' Bishop, Communications and Personal Ministries Secretary, Hackney Church

The big surprise

The atmosphere on Sabbath, 8th June, was electric. After hearing an impressive word from Elder Terry Nunes, "Is this not the Carpenter's Son?" we stayed back in anticipation for the afternoon's proceedings.

Family and friends from near and far gathered to see Hackney SDA member Elder John Locker, who turned the ripe age of 90 years on Monday, 3rd June 2024.

As we made our way back up to the church auditorium, we took our places to praise God for His marvellous works.

Every seat was full as we were led in songs by Sister Myrtle O’Keefe, who, with others, had organised the surprise birthday celebration and dedication service. Co-hosts were Hackney’s very own church musician and singer, Brother Curtis Bruce Jr. and Brother Lloyd Reid.

Elder Locker had contacted me two weeks earlier to invite my family and me to what he called an AY Service for "Men’s Ministries." Little did he know it was actually going to be a surprise service dedicated to his 60-plus years of ministry and 90th birthday.

Elder John Locker was born on the 3rd of June, 1934, in St. John’s (Emerald Island of Montserrat). His parents, Alfred (shoemaker and tin maker) and Rachel (seamstress and homemaker), had eight children.

Alfred had been one of the pioneers of the faith in Montserrat, bringing Adventism to the tropical island in the late 1930s.

As Elder Locker entered the room, he was dressed elegantly in a navy blue suit, accompanied on stage by former Hackney SDA Pastors and Men’s Ministries leaders: Pastor Everett Picart, Pastor Joojo Bonnie, and current Hackney SDA Pastor, Vaughn Thorpe.

Also seated in the front row was President of the South England Conference, Guyanese-born Dr. Kirk Thomas.

As the co-hosts welcomed us, they asked the audience what Men’s Ministries meant to them. Turning to Elder Locker, he stood up and told us how he had been involved with the Men’s Ministries in both Holloway SDA and Hackney SDA church.

Brother Curtis smiled and explained today’s service was not just about the wonderful legacy of Hackney’s Men’s Ministry, but that we were here to acknowledge the service that Elder Locker had brought to the South England Conference. Furthermore, he told Elder Locker we were also giving thanks that he was now at the golden age of 90!

Elder Locker stood back in shock and disbelief, smiling at everyone as he took his seat.

The 14-day boat trip of a lifetime

In 1955, Mr John Locker took up the call from Her Majesty’s service to work on the rail reconstruction and London bus service. He arrived by boat from Montserrat to Waterloo, which took almost two weeks!

Seated on stage, Elder Locker looked ever so proud, surrounded by pastors, friends, and members of the Men's Ministries team and choir.

Birthday greetings

There were beautiful birthday tributes from family, friends, and colleagues. His sister spoke of growing up together in Montserrat, and his grandchildren sang him a birthday song online as they were abroad.

One of his sons, who grew up in the UK, spoke of how his father had always encouraged him to give one hundred per cent. Now an accomplished sports journalist, he also worked in Buckingham Palace and said it was because of his father’s dedication that inspired him to be successful.

SEC Women’s Ministries Director Jacqueline Otokpa attended the service with her husband and sons. She spoke of how Brother Locker had not only been her support during her time as an elder at Hackney but also a rock to her husband and children. Speaking with one of her sons after the service, he told me that he was in his first year of law and that Elder Locker had been a role model to him and his brothers.

Pastor Bonnie gave words of encouragement from Nehemiah 1, stating that God is so good to have kept Brother Locker alive and willing to serve for all these years.

ADRA Collector of the Year

We were given a full history and timeline of Elder Locker’s life. He was baptised at age 12 at Ebenezer SDA Church, learned carpentry from "Father D," and similarly to his own father, he was an avid collector for ADRA, where in one year he collected three thousand and eight hundred pounds, for which he was presented with an award by the South England Conference.

Elder John Locker married his first wife Edna at age 22. God has blessed them with nine children, 24 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren.

Pastor Delcina Rodney, niece of Elder Locker, gave a heart-warming tribute of how her uncle and grandfather were instrumental in encouraging her to take up ministry, which led her to become a pastor in the South England Conference. She spoke of his great support and dedication towards her and her family.

This is your life

The service continued with the congregation being shown a beautiful slideshow of photos from his life, work, and ministry.

We learned how in Montserrat, Mr Locker had picked cotton as a boy to be sold. He spoke of his passion for youth and ministry, and that when he was a teen, he enrolled in the early AY programme.

Commenting on the struggles of life, Elder Locker stated: "Behind every dark cloud is a silver lining." This is a phrase that has now followed me through my life, as it was Elder Locker who gave me my first role as a shy young woman when I first started coming to Hackney SDA Church. He also encouraged my son to always give his best.

Halfway through the service, the children of Hackney’s JSS read a touching poem paying tribute to his remarkable character and nature. Also in attendance were many young Pathfinders along with their parents who had been taught and mentored by Elder Locker.

Stories of hope and commitment

Elder John Mathieu said he had driven through four hours of traffic to make it to today’s service. He reminisced about the support he had received from Elder Locker when he himself was a deacon and later became an elder.

The congregation was left in tears of laughter as Elder Mathieu recounted how Elder Locker wore his best tracksuits for a fun day and took part in the race with the other "younger men" of Hackney SDA Church.

We were told by Men's Ministries, Elder Leroy that due to Elder Locker’s charms of persuasion, they would end up visiting two or three more people in the community than they had planned for.

It is these stories of hope and commitment that impressed on us how much love and dedication Elder John Locker has for winning souls for Jesus.

Loving wife and 42 years of marriage

Throughout the service, there were lovely comments about Sister Eva Locker who he wed in 1981. Elder Locker told us Eva would have loved to be there to celebrate with him.

Unfortunately due to illness, Sister Locker was unable to attend the Service. We praise God that Mr and Mrs Locker have been such a wonderful team for the past 42 years, such a blessing!

Ending the amazing celebration, Elder John Locker was presented with two plaques. One was given to him for his service in the South England Conference (SEC) by President, Dr Thomas, who commented that because Elder Locker's wife is also Guyanese, the two men would often greet each other in Guyanese slang.

Speaking highly of Elder Locker, Pastor Thomas revealed that Brother Locker was not only a big support to him but that he helped many other pastors too.

Elder Herminia Mathieu presented the other plaque for his long service in Hackney SDA Church as caretaker, church clerk, deacon, elder, and head elder.

Commenting downstairs at the banquet, Elder John Locker told me, "It’s been so lovely, I am having a wonderful time."