Tale of two Tonys Pastor Blair meets Prime Minister Blair

By on May 16, 2012

By: STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer

Photo by Fine Line Photography
Tony Blair of Lititz meets Tony Blair of England during last week's Chamber of Commerce dinner in Lancaster.

Two Tonys, the former British prime minister and current Lititz pastor, were the toast of the satellite room at the Chamber of Commerce & Industry dinner in Lancaster last week.

The Tony Blair who was the face of the United Kingdom as prime minister from 1997 to 2007 was the celebrated keynote speaker. The Tony Blair who is president of Evangelical Seminary and one of the senior pastors at Hosanna! in Lititz was a quiet observer at the annual event.

This is the "Tale of Two Tonys," an unlikely meeting:

For years, Pastor Tony has been known as "the other Tony Blair."

"I’ve introduced myself that way for 15 years now," he said.

Prior to that, he went by Anthony, but when "the other Tony Blair" became prime minister, people started making the connection.

"Eventually, I had to give in," he said. "I just decided to have fun with it."

He even has business cards that say, "Tony Blair, Prime Minister." In the age of identity theft, Scotland Yard might take issue with that. All joking aside, Pastor Tony never fathomed that he might actually meet "the other Tony Blair."

"I was quite surprised last night (May 8) that I had the chance," he said. "I knew nobody was going to get too close to him."

Pastor Tony, wearing his "Tony Blair" name tag, was watching Prime Minister Tony on-screen in a satellite room during the packed event.

"People thought it was hilarious that my name was Tony Blair," he said, "and there were some folks from the chamber who started taking me table-to-table and introducing me. Tony Blair (the prime minister) was supposed to stop by our room and make a few comments before he left, and, well, there he is…"

Prime Minister Tony spoke for five minutes and, before he moved on, someone shouted, "We have our own Tony Blair here!"

Prime Minister Tony invited Pastor Tony forward, past the Scotland Yard security.

"I’ve been wanting to meet the man who has made my life interesting for the past 15 years," the pastor told the prime minister.

They compared blue collar Blair family lines, but couldn’t determine if there is a connection — then posed for a photograph.

"It was very gracious of him to invite me out of the crowd, shake my hand and talk to me," said Pastor Tony. "He’s the one who said, ‘Where’s the photographers? Let’s get a picture.’"

But this was more than a brush with celebrity for Pastor Tony.

"The man I saw there last night came across as a very humble, perhaps sadly wise, mature leader," he said. "There was a tone in him that we don’t often hear in American politics."

Prime Minister Tony, during his address to the entire chamber, talked about leadership:

"This is the thing about leading change," he said. "First they’ll tell you that you can’t do it. Then, if you do it, it will be hell. Afterwards, you’ll wish you had done more of it."

"I have shaken hands with a couple of U.S. presidents over the years," said Pastor Tony. "This was probably even more exciting than that. In part, because of the name. In part, because of the role this man has played in history. It was a good evening."

As a pastor who lives in Lititz with his wife Carol and two daughters, Rachel and Alia, the prime minister’s message of faith was equally moving.

"One of the things about Tony Blair is he’s been very vocal about his faith, particularly since leaving office," said Pastor Tony, referring to the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. "He’s trying to have grown-up, mature conversations about faith and what role it has in the world. It was good to hear him address that last evening as well."

One quote from Prime Minister Tony that Pastor Tony took note of was, "There is no bigger or better purpose in life than to serve others." So, while there may be two Tonys, they are one in that regard. More BLAIRS, page A14

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