Methodism being Methodism, like the Irish Rugby team, a whole lot of soul searching wasn’t needed to welcome our Reverend from the south. John Wesley lived a life without borders. The boundaries of the soul are impossible to quantify or imagine. The border of life to death is impossible to predict.
The Reverend Brooks, his wife Helen and his son, Kenton, entered our Cookstownian world like a breath of fresh air. I do confess that we had a lot of fun with the Cork accent. Trees versus threes. I apologise.
Aside from the accent, the Reverend Brooks had a massive impact on the Cookstown congregation. He took my brother for Confirmation classes and he said the following words, ‘Young people focus on the end of the world and the apocalypse and the second coming. I say. Well. We live our life and then we die. The implication is this. Whatever happens, we live and we die. We will all meet our maker.’ The vagaries of life may determine the path, but in the end, we all have to measure up.
The Reverend Brooks took my brother, Darryl, out on the Sermon trail with John Dunlop, former MP for Mid-Ulster. John Dunlop was an amazing wee man. He used to preach from his Bible with the words of Jesus printed in red. He used to say that he always liked to have the important words emphasised in his sermons. I am going to pause here to add a bit of nostalgia. Jim Burns gave my mother Wesley’s commentaries as she headed out on her local preacher trials. Mrs McMaster played the organ masterfully. Anna Hutchinson used to lead the CE, back when talent shows were all the rage. Stanley and Sam Hutchinson were really friendly as everyone made it out to church. My Uncle Kenny met us at the door and took the Sunday School. We said hello to Mrs Sandford, Betty Hutchinson and all the rest. I was sent to Germany with the young Methodist gang and I am so thankful that I was. I met one of my best friends there. I think that the first trip was still under the Rev. Brooks.
However, I know for a fact that my brother benefited amazingly. He was lucky enough to be one of the gang who went to Norway. The Rev. Brooks encouraged him to go. They travelled by plane, train and automobile towards the Arctic Circle, where they met Methodists from everywhere, including a bunch of folks from behind the Iron Curtain, as it was, in 1984. The year that Orwell foresaw. He was involved in a radio broadcast. The trip had a massive impact on his life and had a huge influence on why he chose to teach. The Rev. Brooks impacted all of our lives. I should add that I was the boy in the Mid-Ulster Mail that took the Rooster to Church!!! A legendary moment. I think that I made the highlights of the year; twice in the Mid-Ulster Mail in one year. Just saying …
John Brooks enjoyed people and companionship. He summed up Methodism because he lived by the assumption that all people are equal. He didn’t criticise anyone. He was the embodiment and model of what a Methodist Minister should be. We loved his Cork accent and mimicked it occasionally. Sorry. When myself and my family were invited to venture to Cork to stay in his house, it was a fantastic adventure. I talked to the fella at the petrol pump and asked for ten pounds of diesel. I think he said something about the weather? Not sure. I made the signal ten with my hands and he nodded. A successful transaction. I then went out on the roads and found that in Cork, it is acceptable to drive through a red light? Cork was very different than Cookstown.
Kenton was my brother’s best friend. For whatever reason, they both liked Linfield? John and Helen have been a part of our family ever since the wee man from Cork was sent to Cookstown. They have been great friends.
I want to celebrate the impact that John had in Cookstown by instigating a formal, ‘vote of thanks,’ from us all.
I also want to share our deepest condolences to Helen and Kenton and all the family, on the death of the man from Cork who ventured to Cookstown.