Reports of Gospel Work and Other Assembly Activities
C. H. Darch, Taunton, England
LONDON & HOME COUNTIES
Stanley H. Sayers, 33 Crieff Road, Wandsworth, S.W. 18
A. G. Payne, 39 Solent Road, Drayton, Portsmouth
G. H. Maxwell, "Leigh Beck," 6 Birchy Barton Hill, Exeter
P. P. Chamings, 8 Birch Road, Rubery, Nr. Birmingham
T. G. Smith, "Charis," St. David's Drive, Broxbourne, Herts.
J. H. Hall, 12 Borough Road, J arrow - on -Tyne, Co. Durham
A. Mulholland, (j Commerce Road, Elgin
CENTRAL & SOUTHERN SCOTLAND
A. McNeish, M.A.," Eastcraig," 9 Jerviston Street, Motherwell
Walter A. Norris, 3 Morlais Street, Cardiff, or Harold Thomas, 269 Caerphilly Road, Cardiff
John Ferguson, M.A., 13 Parkmount Road, Belfast
T. Ernest J. Archer, "Dunran," Avoca Avenue, Blackrock, Co. Dublin
"The Lord gave the Word; great were the company of those that published it, Ps. 68. 11.
Those who bear in mind the manifold activities in which brethren (and sisters) engage, day in and day out, in almost every part of the country, will realize the impossibility of giving any adequate account of them. We do not pretend to do this—we can only strive to make this Section as representative as possible, so aft to Rive, at least, a reasonably accurate cross-sect ion of the work. Readers can then form some: impression of what is going on if they multiply by hundreds what they read here.
ASSEMBLIES DYING AND REVIVING
We have, for instance, some interesting side-lights on what we may call the 'assembly situation.' We ail tend to form our ideas (if tits whole from the tiny portion we can see. How often wt' have heard men, when an assembly with which they are associated seems to be declining, talk dismally, as if assemblies everywhere were declining. Although this is absurd, it is sometimes made an excuse for local conditions when the real reason lies in their own apathy; and sometimes earnest men allow themselves to he disheartened. We say 'sometimes' because here in contrast, is a village-assembly at Cockwood (Devon), founded 60 years ago. The work prospered, and 20 years later a larger hall was built to accommodate 150 people. Then came a decline-Home-calls and removals depicted the numbers until only four were left. But what some would call a feeble few were a faithful four—the light was kept burning, the weekly prayer-meeting was kept going with a 100% attendance. Just over two years ago the Lord directed a family into the district, and meetings for children wore started. The response? Six children! Was it worth while going on? Some would have said 'No' - our friends thought otherwise and persevered, being rewarded by the attendance rising to GO. Regular visits to parents brought H5 to a Parents' Sunday, which has been continued as a regular feature. Then a gospel effort resulted in two professing conversion, whilst five people were restored to the Lord and to the assembly. A little later two young people were baptized and received into fellowship. Regular distribution of attractive literature goes on, the gospel meetings continue to grow, and work among the children prospers. Unfortunately, lack of workers prevents the re-commencement of a Sunday School - as yet!
Of course we know that some assemblies do die out—but need that be the end of the story? The assembly at Ashton-in-Makerfield (near Wigan Lancs.) died out several years ago, but to the great joy of many, the assembly has been re-formed. The building has been repaired and re-decorated, and now the believers are looking forward to times of refreshing again. On the Lord's Day following the re-opening fellowship tea and prayer meeting, 21 believers gathered to remember the Lord. At the Sunday School there were 17 children and 18 adults, whilst between 50 and 60 attended the evening Gospel Service, including a number of unconverted. For a place the size of Ashton this is a very encouraging start. If you know of a building lying idle, why not pray that it may become useful again?
In many other places assemblies, such as the one at Caerphilly (Glam.), have battled on through times of blessing and times of dearth, through trade-booms and acute industrial-depressions. Nearly 40 years ago J. M. Bernard and James Marshall (who are still remembered by very many) visited this colliery-town with a tent. A number were saved, baptized and added to the little company who were meeting in the Lord's Name. A wooden building was erected on the tent-site mid remained the home ofthe growing assembly all the years, although the problem of keeping the building together increased with every passing year, until a new Hall became an absolute necessity. This was recently opened with much thanksgiving, followed by Christ-exalting ant] practical ministry on personal and assembly life, by W. D. Hell, Edwin Beynon and Oliver Jones. Now the assembly enters upon another phase of its history.
HOSPITALS FOR AGED
Another thing we should keep constantly in mind is the great variety of work undertaken by assemblies. If we mention the services held in a Hospital lor the Aged by the believers at Fareham, it is not because this is by any means unique, but because we have just had tidings of air aged man in one of the wards, confessing his fear of death and turning to Christ as Saviour.
Then again, many assemblies reach children at some distance from their own Hall by utilizing the buildings of Day Schools, for it will often be found that Education Authorities are favourably disposed to Sunday School work, Portsmouth actually provides several examples of this sort of thing—line School in a large Housing Estate at Paulsgrove is so full that there is no room for extra children who would come. Children converted in these Schools have gone oil well, and in some cases, having been baptised and received into the fellowship of one of the assemblies in Portsmouth, have returned to these Schools as helpers, to the great joy of the workers. In some of these Schools there is a shortage of teachers, which could easily be remedied if young men were exercised about the need.
As a sample of the special efforts which are going on all over the country, all the time, we might cite the following; Harry Bedford was encouraged at Woolston (Hants.) by a number turning to Christ. Besides older scholars from the local Sunday School and Bible Classes, young folk from other assemblies were led to the Lord, One trophy of grace was an elderly and lonely man living in a near-by lodging-house. At Bagborough (Som.), meetings conducted by D. Frost attracted quite a number of unconverted people. One was saved and joined the assembly. Children's meetings were poorly attended at the first, but interest grew. E. F. Hulbert, who for several years has been largely responsible for the work at West Auckland and Ch elm sine (Sum.) tells of encouragement received during special meetings in the first-mentioned place. Adults were difficult to reach, but children responded well. Christians were; definitely helped and it is believed that the effort will yet bear fruit. Jack Harris, working in Suffolk, has proved the value of setting children to solve Bible Problems at home. Parents have thereby been induced to search the Scriptures, and this has led one to receive the Saviour. In another case a father is known to be reading the Bible since his interest was aroused when his child wanted help to answer the initiation, "What did Jesus mean when He said 'Ye must be born again'?"
It is a far cry to the Orkney Islands where Harry Burgess has spent some months. Five weeks at Stormness were rewarded by several conversions, a few of whom have been baptized. Visiting scattered farms on these remote islands during wild weather, when many farm-roads were impassable for days, may sound romantic to those who are reading this by the fireside, but it is not likely that it struck our brother as particularly glamorous! The weather affected the attendance at the meetings at Hanay, but the believers speak of help and encouragement received. At the time of writing he had in mind meetings in Westray for the upbuilding of young believers.
Mr. Burgess' reference to the first inside baptism at Stormness links on with news from Barnstaple (Devon). From the days of R. C. Chapman until quite recently baptisms always took place in the river Taw, which runs through the town. Pollution of the river ha a made this inadvisable for the last few years, and the assembly has been indebted to neighbouring assemblies for the use of their baptisteries from time to time. Recently a new baptistery was built in the Barnstaple Meeting-room and used for the first time for the baptism of two young men ant] three young women— all, with one exception, members of the farming community. The occasion drew a goodly company from a fairly wide area, including several who had not been seen in the Hall before. It was a happy occasion, and the arresting message given by S. Button will undoubtedly bear fruit.
Now that we have turned from the villages to the towns we might mention a children's mission at Taunton (Som.) conducted by Tom Moore, who has specialized in Children's work in the West Country for many years, with considerable blessing. Hundreds of children were reached and large numbers came forward for talks. Of these quite a number professed to receive Christ, many of them being children of Christians in the assembly. Dipping for a moment into Dorset—we hear that the friends at Poole have been encouraged by five teen-agers from the Sunday School being baptized and received into fellowship. The work is particularly difficult among the boys. From the North of Scotland comes news of R. J. Wilding's much-appreciated visit to Elgin. Although no definite decisions are known, many houses were visited and the believers were encouraged. He later found a good deal of interest among young people at Forres. From farther north come tidings of the town of Wick being stirred by the three-weeks' campaign conducted by Harold German. Large crowds of unsaved tame to the Hall; bus- and car-loads of people came from the country districts as far as 18 miles away. Some were saved and. the believers greatly cheered. We hear of an interesting Sunday-evening meeting in the Bearwood district of Birmingham, at which K. Swaine Bourne reviewed the growth of the work over the 72 years of the assembly's existence. A young man came forward saying that he had been much impressed and intended to come regularly. On his second visit he yielded to Christ and went on his way rejoicing.
A great deal is done now-a-days by Gospel Vans with public-address equipment, and in some districts well-appointed Mobile Units are operating with marked success. The power made available by amplifying apparatus can be abused and give rise to resentment, but where used, with tact and discretion it can be a valuable means of reaching people who ordinarily would not give very much attention to a gospel message. The old South Essex Unit has not been pensioned off — it has been taken over for work in the counties of Bedford, Buckingham, Nottingham and Northants. With, perhaps, less-ambitious equipment, T. W. Hickley has visited 33 Housing Estates in addition to other towns and villages in Lanarkshire. The assemblies in the area turned out well in spite of poor weather. At Coatdyke 75 workers were Counted at one open-air meeting.
A NEW IDEA
From time to time we have noted unusual methods employed in spreading the gospel, but we have never before associated bottles with evangelism. On Merseyside there is a strong train of Ship Visitors, who, in addition to taking the gospel to crews of vessels in the docks, arrange for bottles to be thrown over-board when the ships are at sea. Last year 5,200 bottles were sent out in this way, each containing John 3. 16 in 19 languages, two tracts, and a letter in six languages, asking for a reply from the finder. Hundreds have been received from places in Franco, Italy, Norway, U.S.A., Gold Coast, Uruguay and Germany. Many of these are of great interest, and there is good reason to believe that this novel method has been blessed to the conversion of some.
A great deal of good work is being done amongst the troops in the various camps. Some at our readers will remember a letter from the assembly at Aldershot commending Mr. and Mrs. Edward Hague to tins work. In dependence on the Lord they settled in the large Camp at Bovington (Dorset) where they have welcomed hundreds of young men to their home, as well as working systematically in the Barracks. The work has not been withoutformidable difficulties, but the Lord has encouraged His servants by the many testimonies they have received from those they have sought to help. If any lad known to readers is posted to this tamp, a, note to E. Hague, Welcome Home, Cologne Road, Bovington Camp, Dorset, will ensure his being looked up.
Among the more general news we have received is the following: F. Cundick visited Lossiemouth, where his ten addresses oil the Feasts of Jehovah met with ninth appreciation. E. A. Toll has been helping in some of the assemblies in the mining valleys of South Wales. He was able to reach a large number of children in a special effort on a Housing Estate at Newport, hut it was difficult to yet adults in. The Annual Conference at Ynysybwl (Glam.) was well attended, and profitable, ministry was given by W. Ward, R. Bryant and J. Harris. The last-named remained for children's meetings in which there was good interest, and some spoke of being saved. Although there is always great activity in the gospel in Ireland the only information which has come to us this time concerns David Craig's visit to Ballina in the west, where Mr. Wilson has been holding the fort for many years. Although there arc only two or three associated with him, the attendance at the meetings was good and some showed concern.
Against this general background let us glance (as typical of similar areas in the country) at the populous county of Lancashire, Here we have some busy centres, where large and active assemblies undertake a good deal of enterprising and aggressive work—witness the campaigns in Liverpool. Nevertheless a report from Fred Whitmore kelps us to see that even under such conditions great need exists. He speaks at the continued usefulness of tent campaigns, but mentions that even now there are 3,000,000 people in Lancashire practically untouched by assemblies. There are 300 villages to which the gospel is seldom taken—a need which a Mobile Unit would help to meet. At Cadishead our brother found that widespread modernistic, teaching not only made work among adults difficult, but resulted in otherwise very intelligent and responsive children being lamentably ignorant of the Scriptures. Nevertheless two men and one woman made public confession of faith in Christ and a large number of young people manifested keen interest. The effort at Golvorne was very encouraging—some were saved and others were restored and received back into fellowship. At the conclusion of the mission, six were baptised in the Hall kindly lent by the brethren at Wigan.
Now multiply all this by hundreds, and Rive God thanks. At the same time remember that [ho need is appalling—face facts, pray and work, but do not tolerate a defeatist outlook. The Lord is ready to bless—are we ready to be blessed and made a blessing?