Fundraising “Canon on Wheels” John Bowers dies, aged 91

12 June 2024

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We give thanks for the life of retired clergyman and stalwart Barnabas supporter Canon John Bowers who died on 24 May, only weeks short of his 92nd birthday.

Canon John, from West Kirby, UK , was a tireless champion of oppressed and suffering Christians around the world.

Following his retirement from full-time ministry at the age of 70 in 2002, Canon John harnessed his passion for bike riding to embark on a series of annual cycling pilgrimages, spanning more than two decades.

Canon John Bowers on one of his fundraising rides with his daughter Ruth

In total these rides raised more than £278,000 to help believers in need through the work of Barnabas Aid.

Affectionately nicknamed the “Canon on Wheels”, John Bowers’ 21st – and final – sponsored ride took place on his 91st birthday, on 17 June 2023.

The majority of the funds that Canon John raised supported a Christian shelter in Kenya for girls fleeing female genital mutilation (FGM), forced child marriage, sexual abuse and other dangers.

Cana Girls’ Rescue Home was founded in the early 2000s when it provided shelter for five girls. Thanks to Canon John’s support, the home was able to expand, building a 48-capacity dormitory equipped with matron house, kitchen and dining room.

Over the years more than 300 girls benefitted from Cana’s safe and caring Christian environment and were enabled to grow up in dignity and with an education.

More than 300 Kenyan girls have benefitted from the caring Christian environment at Cana Girls’ Rescue Home, thanks to Canon John’s support

Other projects that Canon John supported through Barnabas Aid included helping Syrian refugees, freeing impoverished Christians from bonded labour in Pakistan’s brick kilns, giving aid to victims of anti-Christian violence and help for farmers in East Africa following locust swarms.

Canon John’s sponsored cycles took him to historic sites of pilgrimage in Europe and across the UK. He was frequently accompanied on these journeys by his son Chris, daughter Ruth and granddaughter Ayse. His eldest daughter Angela and her husband John were often on hand in the support car.

Canon John Bowers with, from left, his granddaughter Ayse, son Chris, daughters Ruth and Angela, and son-in-law John at Chester Cathedral. The family paused at the cathedral midway during Canon John’s 20th ride in 2022 for Holy Communion, celebrated by him

His last ride covered 30 miles of the Wirral Peninsula around his home and took in some of the landmarks of his life and work, including Christ Church, Higher Bebington, where he and his beloved late wife Margaret were members of the congregation.

On finishing the ride, he began planning his next one. Canon John explained, “When I retired from ministry, I wasn’t able to be face-to-face on a day-to-day basis, so I decided I would help those I would never see face-to-face. That’s when and why I chose Barnabas.”

Canon John’s funeral will take place on 18 June at noon at St Bridget’s Church, West Kirby.

Praise God for the life and work of His loyal servant, Canon John Bowers. Give thanks that, by God’s grace, Canon John’s legacy will live on in the work of Cana Girls’ Rescue Home and in the many other Barnabas Aid projects he supported through his cycling pilgrimages.

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