History in first person: Rev. Philip Bottomley

The first national director of CMJ USA tells how he came from England to lead the fledgling US branch and how he found himself with CMJ again after retirement

In July 1983 I was asked to meet with Mr. Maurice Garton, then Chairman of the CMJ UK Council, the Rev. Walter Barker, Home Secretary, and the Rev. Peter Rodgers of the newly formed CMJ USA Board. I had been the Midlands Area Secretary for five years. They asked me to consider becoming the first National Director of CMJ USA! I travelled to the USA with Walter and Maurice that October for an interview.  

After a positive interview, I went home to talk and pray with my family about such a life-changing decision. About two weeks later during our regular daily family “Quiet Time”, the Lord gave us a scripture, Genesis 28:15: “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Concluding that the Lord had called us to America, I accepted the three years assignment!  

So, on July 23, 1984, in an empty house with five suitcases packed, borrowed sleeping bags and a CMJ car outside to take us to Heathrow next morning, we ate a fast-food meal and opened our Scripture guide booklet and Bible. The passage assigned, not in any sequence, was Genesis 28:10-22! That was 38 years ago!  

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Gen 28:15)

Rev. Philip Bottomley
Rev. Philip Bottomley

Setting up the office in the Mosby Building next to Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, Virginia, I proceeded, with Theresa Newell’s help (she was a human Roladex!) to introduce the ministry to the Episcopal Church across the country and to get involved in ministry among Jewish people. I preached and gave talks, including costume talks with clothes from the CMJ UK’s Bible Come to Life Exhibition, in churches in 32 of the states. I represented CMJ at diocesan conventions and at three National Conventions of the Episcopal Church. I taught at several seminaries including Trinity School for Ministry near Pittsburgh (TESM). I represented CMJ abroad at events like Lausanne Movement conferences and assisted in leading three tours to Israel. I wrote articles for our newsletter, and attempted to increase our support base. I began recruiting and training a network of area representatives. I worked with the Messianic community in the Washington D.C. area. Together we developed a Feast of Tabernacles Celebration that was held for several years.  

As I said, the assignment was originally for three years – I was to find an American replacement. But in 1989 with my temporary visa expiring, the Board made the decision to make me permanent, and I obtained resident alien visas for my wife, Sylvia, and me. In 1990 the Board decided to move the office to Ambridge for financial reasons and in order to join the new group of Episcopal ministries that had relocated to be near TESM’s new Stanway Institute. So, that fall, our office manager Simcha Newton and Julie Weikert, our long-time secretary, and I moved the office and ourselves to southwest Pennsylvania.  

In June 1991, the Board decided to let me go and appointed the Rev. Alfred Sawyer, who had just returned to the USA from pastoring at Christ Church Jerusalem. I returned to parochial ministry and served at three churches. I retired in 2011 and returned to southwestern Pennsylvania to be near our younger daughter and family. I reconnected to CMJ through then Executive Director Canon Daryl Fenton, who invited me to assist him.  

When Daryl was appointed to direct the work of CMJ Israel, I was asked to return as director of CMJ USA! However, I soon discovered that the director's position had grown so much that I was not able to accomplish everything myself. So, the Board decided that the executive position would be shared. I, in my new position as Director of Ministry Partnerships, now concentrate on ministry with churches, teaching, working with our Intercessory Ministry Coordinator, Jolene, recruiting and mentoring leaders, and building up our co-laboring partnership teams across the country.  

Photo: Philip Bottomley, center, during a Purim play at Congregation Yeshua Ben-David

Philip Bottomley at Purim play at Congregation Yeshua Ben-David

Three things are clear from my lifetime involvement with CMJ and my 23 years of active service with the ministry:  

  • The Jewish People are still the apple of God’s eye.

  • It is of first importance for us as Yeshua’s followers to share the Jewish Messiah with his own people.  

  • God is faithful to bless those who seek to obey this command.  

The Rev. Philip Bottomley 

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Article published on 06/10/2022