JOHN KEAST AWARDED THE CROSS OF ST PIRAN
John Keast was awarded the Cross of St Piran and the Bishop’s Award for a lifetime of service to teaching, sharing and preaching God’s love.
He has had an impressive career, rising to become an advisor to the government on Religious Education. But as John says, the best way to learn is to teach. “When teaching children, I learnt too. I always felt that we were all on a journey to discover meaning and truth.”
A FAITH STORY OF CURIOSITY AND FASCINATION WITH THEOLOGY
John describes his faith story as an inquisitive one that has led to open walls. Bought up in Sticker, just outside St Austell, John took the Cornish Methodist path until he became a teenager. Fascinated by church history, he believed that perhaps Cornish Anglicanism would better suit him.
And then he went to university in London. The world opened and John loved the intensity of exploring all the questions raised by a degree in theology and philosophy. “Rejecting conventional religious faith, I brought my own critical faculties to it and didn’t just confine it to academic study, but applied it to my own faith.” This led on to a deeper commitment to the relevance of what Jesus was saying. “Reading the Gospel of Mark with fresh eyes, I thought, ‘Gosh, this is true!’ It was authentic and full of wisdom.”
“I remember reading the Gospel of Mark with fresh eyes, and thinking, ‘Gosh, this is true!’ I found it to be authentic and full of wisdom.”
THE PULL TO TEACHING, CORNWALL AND SHARING HIS FAITH
Although John completed his degree, he decided not to fulfil the original plan to seek ordination. Instead, he worked with the Church Commissioners in estate management. He was happy but felt the pull back to theology and to Cornwall. A new career unfolded in teaching Religious Education, that eventually brought him home to take up a teaching post in Bodmin Comprehensive, and then another in Truro. In 1989 he became Cornwall’s first advisor for RE and in 1996, he became the RE advisor for government. John worked for the Qualification and Curriculum Authority in RE citizenship and personal social health education.
FROM SMALL SEEDS…
John Keast has undertaken many significant advisory and leadership roles, but it is the children he remembers. Occasionally he had glimpses into the difference a compassionate teacher of RE could make, how the subject could unlock hidden potential and let a child shine. He is shyly proud of the achievements of his first A Level student who went on to become the Dean of the Virginia Theology Seminary in Washington.
“I was also acutely aware that I had to wear my faith as a teacher with empathy and understanding for other people’s faith and belief systems.” Working in multi-faith contexts, this was important. John was deeply respectful, ensuring his own personal convictions did not negatively impact on other peoples’ faithful convictions. “I truly believe you can be of one faith and engage in dialogue with people of another faith at a genuine level.”
BACK IN THE METHODIST FOLD
Today, John can be found back in the Methodist fold. Preaching and supporting pastorally in St Austell, John has developed a compassionate ministry in funeral services. “It’s such an important ministry. Families are at their most vulnerable, hurting and possibly fearful. All feelings that Jesus’ love speaks into.”
John is fully deserving of his awards, but slightly wary. “I recently preached from Luke 6:26, “Woe to you when people speak well of you.” I am very grateful, and touched that my work has been recognised, but slightly concerned about any woe that might come my way with this award!”