Leslie Land clearly had a growing conviction that God was calling him to the ministry, and the letters through the late thirties and the forties trace this. Lloyd-Jones spoke at Land’s induction to Melbourne Hall, Leicester, in 1947 and Land preached quite often at Westminster Chapel through the 1950s. Melbourne Hall continues to exercise a faithful ministry in the heart of Leicester, the most ethnically diverse city in the UK.
Ian Shaw, Professor Emeritus at the School for Business and Society of the University of York, UK, has just done the church a great service by writing a well-researched book on the life of Leslie Land, a rather forgotten pastor in mid-20th-century England who influenced his generation and the next more than most of us could imagine.
The book, Leslie Land: His Life and Ministry, will be published through Joshua Press, an imprint of H&E Publishing, later this year. He has graciously accepted to answer some questions about Leslie Land and this new biography.
What inspired you to write this book?
Well, I guess there may be direct and more distant inspirations. It must have been the early 1950s when, as a little boy, I first heard Leslie Land. I was sixteen when he left his church in Leicester, in the English Midlands. A small group of us went to visit him one Saturday morning, uninvited. It must have been the first time a pastor had talked to me as one Christian to another. I never forgot. When he died after a long illness in 1985, I wrote a couple of obituaries. The seeds were sown.
Over the last decade I have transcribed and published a series of his studies on the second advent of Christ, and written a series of articles about him, but it was the awareness that I had probably the most complete deposit of information about Leslie Land that eventually pushed me to make a fuller record.
Can you give a brief overview of Leslie Land’s life?
The facts – as much as we know them – are readily told. I tell the story in the opening pages of the book. Tracing his life is like a jigsaw puzzle with many missing pieces. He was brought up in Derbyshire, an English county. ‘William Leslie Land, born 20 January 1903 at Wirksworth; son of Samuel Land, retired Draper and Outfitter. Educated at the Grammar School, Wirksworth. Admitted 1 March 1921.’ So reads the Christ’s College, Cambridge, Admissions Book.
He became a science teacher at a private college on the south coast of England and quickly rose to be the Headmaster, when still in his thirties. He left the college just after the Second World War and after a brief spell at a church in the south of England was called to Melbourne Hall, Leicester, where he stayed for fourteen years until 1961. He suffered the early onset of a serious degenerative illness and died in 1985. His wife, Katherine, survived him for a few years as did their son, Peter, who himself had lifelong learning and social disabilities.
How difficult was it to gather information for this book?
Katherine Land, who I never spoke to face to face, was shown one of the obits I wrote. She asked someone to mail to me a small number of artefacts from his ministry – his annotated bible, some sermon notes, and so on. Someone else – a man who had been a minister in Leicester at the same time as Land – mailed to me some reel-to-reel tapes of Leslie Land. I felt a kind of obligation.
Another unusual factor is that Melbourne Hall at that time produced a monthly church magazine of sixteen closely typed pages. Three or four of these pages would be taken up with an extended outline of a Leslie Land sermon. The church would bind the magazines between hard covers every three years. I don’t know any other church that would do that. One way or another I was given all but one of the bound volumes covering his ministry. So, although he never wrote anything for publication – despite Martyn Lloyd-Jones urging him to do so – there is a rich archive of his ministry.
Preserving the archive is, as it happens, one of the challenges regarding Leslie Land, and one I have not been able to resolve. I have a significant number of audiotapes of his ministry and have had them digitised, but they need a permanent home.