Pastor John Harper drowned with 1500 others when the RMS Titanic sank in the early hours of 15 April 1912. He had founded the Baptist Church in the Plantation district of Glasgow where he ministered for 13 years. During that time, his wife Annie died and was buried in Craigton Cemetery where a monument was erected to her. John left Glasgow to lead a church in London. A renowned preacher, he was on his way with his six year old daughter Nana to the Moody Church in Chicago for a second visit as a guest speaker when the tragedy happened. The state-of-the-art ship was holed by an iceberg and sank within hours. Pastor John gave his life jacket to another man who was one of the few rescued from the icy waters. His name and his sacrifice were recorded on his wife’s headstone.
When the Plantation church was rebuilt many years later, it was named the Harper Memorial Baptist Church and was opened by Nana Harper. Quietly attending the memorial service in Craigton and laying their own flowers at the monument which tells the tragic story, were John Harper’s grand-daughter, Dr Mary Gurling, her sons Stephen and Paul and her nephew, Andrew Pont. Said Stephen: ‘We are standing on the shoulders of giants through this inspiring legacy.’
The memorial and re-dedication service was organised by the Harper Memorial Baptist Church as one of several events during their Titanic commemorative weekend, 100 years after the terrible disaster.
The service was conducted by preacher Craig Dyer who introduced Dr Erwin W. Lutzer who has been pastor for 32 years at the Moody Church in Chicago where John Harper was going. In his epilogue Dr Lutzer said: “When I became a Pastor there, you walked down the hall to the John Harper meeting room.” In his passionate witness he explained that there was compelling evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the death. “Jesus was the forerunner. But you can’t get into Heaven with your physical body. The spirit can be released through faith, alone, in Jesus Christ. John Harper believed that and was able to say as the ship sank – ‘I’m not going down; I’m going up (to Heaven)’ ”
Among the guests of honour were Bailie Iris Gibson who brought greetings from the Lord Provost and said the City had been pleased to refurbish the lettering on the memorial stone in Craigton. ‘Pastor John Harper’s story deserves to be better known,’ she said. Also speaking was Councillor Alistair Watson who told how he’d grown up in the district, played in the cemetery and knew John Harper’s story. ‘It is humbling to know of his remarkable self-sacrifice,’ said Councillor Watson. ‘He will feature in a booklet detailing the heritage trail through Craigton Cemetery. That is due to be printed soon and will tell the story to an even bigger audience.’ Also present were Councillor Stephen Dornan and Rebecca Lutzer, Dr Lutzer’s wife. MSP John Mason, who is an active member of the Baptist Church in Easterhouse, attended as a practising Christian and supportive church member and preferred to stand in the crowd.
Hymns and prayers were offered in thanks and tribute to John Harper and his sacrifice.
In the crowd were two particularly dedicated students of the Titanic. Andrew Learmonth, dressed in respectful white shirt and black tie, said he has been ‘obsessed’ by the disaster and all the attendant details since childhood. ‘My flat in Glasgow is like a Titanic Museum,’ he admitted. He is a member of the Titanic Historic Society, the British Titanic Society and the Ulster Historic Society – the ship was built in Belfast where a new museum has been opened to promote the fact. He recently visited Southampton to see the vessel which left to make the commemorative voyage of the fated Titanic.
Giving out sheets telling the story of John Harper and showing a dramatic image drawn at the time, was Brian Brodie, a fire officer at Govan fire station. He pointed out that the Titanic was correctly referred to as RMS Titanic. ‘That stands for Royal Mail Ship, Titanic,’ explained the former marine engineer. ‘It shouldn’t be SS – sailing ship – Titanic as engraved on the memorial stone.’ Enthusiastically, he walks visitors through Craigton Cemetery to tell them John Harper’s story, show them the monument and visit other interesting grave stones with their own fascinating stories.
The Harper Memorial Church’s programme continues through Sunday 15 April 2012 with a morning service conducted by Jim Wylie, soloist Gillian Strang and guest speaker Dr Lutzer of Moody Church, Chicago. In the evening, Walter Whitelaw offers the welcome for the celebration with Dr Lutzer preaching and the Govan Salvation Army Band playing.
On Friday 13 April, the Glasgow congregation held a holiday club for schoolchildren and a rock concert in the evening for young people. Both events were well attended and have strengthened the Church’s outreach, especially in the local communities around Kinning Park and Plantation off Paisley Road West.
Harper Memorial Baptist Church in Kinning Park is buoyed up for a Titanic weekend starting Friday 13 April 2012. One of the 1500 people lost when the Titanic sank 100 years ago, was John Harper who had been a minister of the church in Glasgow. He was on his way to be a guest preacher in Chicago at the Moody Church. And the current preacher in that American church – Dr Erwin W. Lutzer – will be the guest speaker in Glasgow during the commemorative events and services.
To recognise John Harper’s sacrifice – he gave his life vest to another man – the congregation has planned a wide variety of events to which they invite anyone along.
Friday 13 April started with a school children’s holiday club. That evening a Christian rock band – Superhero – were scheduled to play their only UK gig. They’ve completed a European tour and are about to go on tour in the United States. That event is the only one where a door entry charge applies (£3)
On Saturday 14 – a commemorative service and re-dedication will be held in Craigton Cemetery, Cardonald at 2.30pm. There John Harper’s wife was buried and her headstone has details of his subsequent death when the Titanic sank after being holed by an iceberg on its maiden voyage to America. Dr Lutzer will conduct a service at the graveside and local Councillors Alistair Watson and Iris Gibson are expected to attend.
That evening – the 100th year to the date of the sinking of the Titanic – a service of praise will be held in the church which is located off Paisley Road West in the midst of a complex of modern houses. Among the contributions will be the choir ‘Father’s Song.’
Sunday services, morning and evening, will be conducted by Dr Lutzer with communion being celebrated in the morning and the Govan Salvation Army Band playing in the evening.
The Harper Memorial Baptist Church in Kinning Park Glasgow, is preparing for a mega weekend starting on Friday 13 April through till Sunday 15 April.
The church was named after Pastor John Harper who had grown it in the early 1900s and who was one of the 1500 people drowned when the Titanic sank.
The Glasgow Harper Memorial Baptist Church has a school children’s holiday club running from 10.30am till 12.30am on Friday 13.
That evening the Christian rock band ‘Superhero’ will play on their single UK gig before they head for America. There is a £3 ticket for this gig. tel: 01698 275343 or firstname.lastname@example.org/cgi-bin/newinto.pl?=s11
On Saturday 14 April at 2.30pm, a memorial and redidication service will be held in Craigton Cemetery Cardonald. The wife of John Harper is buried there and his sacrifice aboard the Titanic is recorded on her headstone. The service will be conducted by Dr Erwin W. Lutzer of Moody Church in Chicago. It was to that church that John Harper was travelling when the vessel sank.
On Saturday evening at 7.30pm Dr Lutzer will preach and remember the events of exactly 100 years ago. Music will be provided by Father’s Song and a play about John Harper’s life will be presented for the first time.
On Sunday 15 April at 11am, the regular morning service will have Dr Lutzer as their guest speaker and communion will be celebrated.
The evening service on Sunday will feature Govan Salvation Army Band along with Dr Lutzer.
It is almost 100 years since the Titanic sank with the loss of more than 1500 people. Glasgow has its own direct link to the Titanic through a church off Paisley Road West.
Called the Harper Memorial Baptist church, it is named after a Scottish preacher called John Harper who was aboard the Titanic when it was holed by an iceberg on 14 April 1912.
And next month when many Titanic events are scheduled to remember the tragedy, the congregation will hold a Titanic Weekend.
Starting on Friday 13 to Sunday 15 April they aim to let a wider audience know that the faith of the man whose name was given to the building, is still valid for people today.
Said church Deacon Gordon Webster: ‘We wanted to make use of the fact that most people know about the Titanic to tell the story of John Harper and win people for the Lord.’
A widower, John Harper was travelling with his niece and his six-year-old daughter to be a guest speaker at the Moody church of Chicago for a second season. One of the survivors of the disaster told how John Harper asked him as the ship was sinking: ‘Has your soul been saved?’ When the man said ‘no’ John took off his own life vest and gave it to him.
Born in Houston, John Harper became a preacher at an early age. When he was appointed to a congregation in Glasgow it had 25 members. When he left it for a post in London in the early 1900s, the church had its own purpose built ‘tin kirk’ in the Plantation district of the city which could seat 1000. It was named after John Harper when a new building was opened in 1921 by his daughter, Nan Harper who survived the disaster.
John’s wife had died a week after their daughter had been born. She was buried in Craigton cemetery. The details of John’s heroic death were added to her grave stone soon after the Titanic disaster. For the church’s Titanic Weekend a memorial and rededication service will be held at the cemetery in Cardonald at 2.30pm on Saturday 14 April. Bailie Iris Gibson and Councillor Alistair Watson are expected to attend.
That evening – 100 years to the day, after the disaster – Dr Erwin W. Lutzer of the Chicago Moody Church, will preach in the Harper Memorial Baptist church in Glasgow at 7.30pm. His church in Chicago was the one that John Harper was travelling to. John had been invited back to preach because of the success of his first visit. Some of the meeting rooms in the Chicago church are dedicated to him. A play about John Harper will be performed in Glasgow on Saturday 14 April, and there will be music by Father’s Song.
Dr Lutzer will also speak at the Sunday 15 April morning service when communion will be celebrated and again in the evening when music will be provided by the Govan Salvation Army Band.
There will be a holiday club for primary school children on Friday 13 April. The local Lorne Park Primary School has already studied the Titanic story and some of their work will be on display in the church during the weekend. On the Friday evening a Christian rock band ‘Superhero’ will perform for the teens, twenties and music minded people. This is the only Scottish date for the band which is on tour in Europe currently and will be touring the United States following the Titanic weekend events.
‘This is a big step for us to have a rock group – they’ll be the first we’ve had. But we think we’re well prepared,’ said Deacon Webster. He added: ‘The whole process of planning this weekend has been amazing. It is a wonderful experience for the team of 13 volunteers from the church who have organised it. We’ve been taken aback at the world wide interest with people emailing from abroad asking to book seats.’ The church can seat 600 people and has a hall for an additional 100 where a video link will enable them to share in the proceedings. Leaflets have been distributed throughout the local community and visitors to the city that weekend will also be invited specially. For further details see the website: www.harpermemorial.net For tickets for the rock concert email: email@example.com or call GLO Bookshop, Motherwell: 01698 275343
image copyright : ©Graeme Hewitson Eikon Bible Art.