Obituary: The Rev J. Meirion Lloyd

D. Ben Rees
Sunday 11 October 1998 23:02 BST

THE CHRISTIAN Church was well served in many capacities by the Rev J. Meirion Lloyd, in England, Wales and particularly in Mizoram, an untidy bit of India lying beyond Bangladesh and Burma (Myanmar). For years the area was known as Lushai Hills, but that has changed, though it is still one of the remotest parts of India.

The pioneer missionary in the Lushai Hills had been an unassuming Welshman, D.E. Jones (1870-1947), and Lloyd had a great deal in common with him. Both came from the same county in Welsh Wales, and when they came back from India they both settled in Liverpool, within a mile in Allerton, and both retired eventually to Prestatyn, where they enjoyed 20 years, though daily in communion with Mizoram.

Lloyd belonged to a remarkable family. Born in 1913, he was one of six children of a slate quarryman in Corris, near Dolgellau. Two of the brothers became theologians of standing. His late brother Rev Dr R. Glynn Lloyd had a remarkable ministry in Utica, New York State.

Learning came easily to Lloyd. He secured qualifications in engineering before he changed for the arts and theology, at the University of Wales, Cardiff and Aberystwyth. Ordained in the Presbyterian Church of Wales in 1941, because of the Second World War he had to wait a long time before he left for India. When eventually he and the missionary Gwen Rees Roberts sailed late in 1944, on the Stirling Castle, he found many more like him who had waited long and patiently. On arrival in Bombay they were entrained to Calcutta and to Silchar, and, with a truck each provided by the local army commandant, they went to Aizawl. By Christmas 1945 Lloyd had been joined by his wife, Joan, whom he had left behind in Britain a few days after their marriage.

It was the beginning of a long witness in Mizoram, heavily involved in the setting up of higher education and theological training. He started the first high school in Aizawl, and was fortunate in the support of Major Ranald MacDonald of the Assam Rifles Regiment, who had full sympathy with the Mizos' desire for higher education. The Mizos dubbed the hill on which the high school was built the "MacDonald Hill", and MacDonald became the school's first headmaster. In 1950 he handed over to his successor, Pu Sangliang, an excellent high school with 94 per cent pass marks in all the examinations under the University of Gauhati.

For J. Meirion Lloyd was needed for another task, to raise the theological training in Aizawl by the setting up of a theological school. Under him it gained accreditation status, and the most able students gained postgraduate scholarships to Boston, Hong Kong and Oxford. Benefactors included the New Testament scholar Dr William Barclay, who had a high regard for the Principal. Lloyd in great style began clearing the site for a new college building; the rock was cut and cleared, but the task of completing the building by 1963 was not realised. Lloyd's successor as Principal (and one of his students), the Rev C. Pazawna, finished it with a mechanical digger.

There are two more Lloyd projects that deserve to be noted. One was the setting up of an arts college in 1960 and the other his work as a member of the band of translators which completed the first translation of the Mizo Bible in August 1955.

In 1964 Lloyd and his wife returned to Liverpool (their three children had all been born during their time in India) and he became for the next 10 years Merseyside, Wirral and West Lancashire Secretary for the Bible Society before returning to the pastoral ministry at Rhyl.

In 1978 he retired, but he spent the next 12 years producing in Welsh a history of the church in Mizoram under the title Y Bannau Pell (1989), edited Nine Missionary Pioneers (1989), with three of the biographies written by himself, and then the remarkable History of the Church in Mizoram (Harvest in the Hills) published in 1991. He was completely fluent in Mizo, Welsh and English as well as being highly competent in Greek and Hebrew, which was a great asset for his biblical exposition and translations.

Like his great hero D.E. Jones he offered a prayer daily on behalf of his friends, the Mizos:

Farewell my dearest friends, your names are all engraved on my heart. I commend you to my God's saving care every time I appear in the Most Holy Place.

John Meirion Lloyd, missionary, scholar and educationist: born Corris, Merionethshire 4 May 1913; ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Wales 1941; married 1944 Joan McLeish (two sons, one daughter); died Prestatyn, Denbighshire 30 September 1998.

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