Reports Section - Gospel Work and other Assembly Activities
D. C. Hinton, Hayes, Middx.
One of the objects of this section of the magazine has been to encourage the Lord’s people to reach out with the Gospel of the glory of God to parts hitherto unreached. As we read the following pages and see how some have endeavoured to ‘reach out’., let us ask ourselves if we are ‘reaching out’ to those in need around us. It may be that a part of the town where we live awaits the good tidings, or a country area nearby; it may be that there are certain groups of people that we can contact more easily than others, or some class of individuals that we have a special opportunity to reach. One thing is certain, we all can ‘reach out’ in one way or another if we have the desire.
‘the work is great and large’
The month of August, 1948, saw the realisation of a vision of the believers at Plassey Street Hall, Penarth, to hold a tent mission on the site of a new housing estate. The tent was well filled each evening as the message was given by the late P. Mills, and the Lord was pleased to bless the venture for there are those in fellowship today at Plassey Street who were converted under his ministry.
With the end of the mission it was felt that something should be done for the large number of children in the area, especially as there was no place of worship for them. So during the summer months, children’s meetings were held in a nearby playing field. W. E. Davies of Cardiff was invited to visit each house, and this resulted in many contacts which developed subsequently. G. Grant of Harrogate held a series of open air meetings at various points on the estate.
This all resulted in much exercise of heart as to the next step, for building sites were almost non-existent, while those for places of worship had already been allocated. Following a meeting with the Housing Committee of the local council however, an offer was received of the only plot available - and this was the identical plot where the tent had been pitched some years previously. As a result, a a modern hall was erected in 1954; a Sunday School was started, followed later by a Women’s Meeting, Children’s Meeting and Gospel Service.
Towards the end of 1963 it was felt that the time had come to establish a local church in that area. So after much prayerful heartsearching and with the fullest co-operation of the assembly at Plassey Street, the new assembly commenced to meet in January of this year in Bethany Hall, Tennyson Road, Penarth, Glamorgan.
So the results of spiritual vision have been seen., not only in the establishing of another assembly, but in the fact that several families in the district have been blessed over the years of pioneering work -one complete family is now in happy fellowship.
‘so we laboured in the work’
Similar good tidings come from Wainscott, Kent. We have referred in previous issues to the Gospel Hall erected on a housing estate there and which has been used by the nearby assembly at Chattenden as a centre for work with the Gospel among young and old. The Lord has sealed this work with a measure of blessing and a few young folk have been obedient to Him in baptism. Finally in December last year some thirty local believers, including many younger ones, commenced to gather as a local assembly and met for the breaking of bread. Already they have seen further blessing, for a girl has been saved, a lad has asked for baptism and an aged believer has joined them.
Writing for the encouragement of other believers similarly placed, the correspondent says, ‘We would encourage them to go forward acknowledging the Lord as Head over all things to His church. He will meet the need of workers as well as worshippers, and the benefits accruing to a work from the discipline of assembly fellowship will strengthen the witness’.
‘The work of our hands, establish Thou it’
The commencement of the assembly at St. Paul's Cray, Kent, was described in the March-April, 1958, issue, soon after the believers had gathered together for the first time to break bread in a small rented hall. After two years of meeting in this place the number in fellowship had grown to some three dozen, and they began to contemplate the erection of a hall. It took two years for a site to be obtained and approval to be granted by the necessary authorities. Eventually the new Cray Valley Chapel was opened last December, and since then a good sprinkling of unconverted and non-assembly folk have come to the meetings and the attendances of the younger generation have also increased.
The believers are convinced that if results are to be seen we must go to the people, showing them that we are in earnest about their spiritual need. They have found that the best methods of reaching people seem to be through their children and by sick visiting.
‘the men did the work faithfully’
Some four hundred miles to the north, in the central Fife area, lies Glenrothes, one of Scotland’s new towns. Its development commenced in 1949 and although the present population is only in the region of fifteen thousand, the final target is over fifty thousand. Thus it was important for an early start to be made in Gospel work, ready to welcome newcomers to the town.
Believers who moved into the area first of all gathered with the saints at Windygates. As more believers came, a Sunday School and Gospel meeting were started in a small hall rented from the Corporation. This led to an assembly being established in 1955 with just over twenty in fellowship. Weeknight gatherings were held in the homes of believers and soon a building fund was started. The result was that the close of last year saw the completion of the new hall and a memorable opening conference.
There followed a special series of Gospel meetings conducted by R. Walker. This was well advertised by both printed and personal invitations, and many of all ages heard the Gospel, some young ones professing faith in the Saviour.
‘that all men may know His work’
In many parts believers are still pioneering, not having reached the stage of erecting a hall or meeting as an assembly. Such is the case in Newport, where for some years there has been exercise by those meeting with the Mountjoy Street Assembly concerning the spiritual needs of the vast new estate at Ringland Top, on the Chepstow side of the town. This was started some eight years ago and is nearing completion, when it will house ten thousand people.
Early in 1963 several believers who lived on the estate or nearby made an application to the local education authority for the use of one of the local schools in order to start a Sunday School. Permission was granted for the use of two classrooms in the Junior School. Encouragement was received from the outset, for as the houses were visited with invitations many people were contacted who remembered with appreciation their own Sunday School days in Mountjoy Street Hall.
The school began last June with thirty-two scholars and seven teachers. Numbers have increased each week until approximately one hundred children are now attending. Further accommodation and more teachers are needed, especially as it is planned to canvass the remaining parts of the estate in the spring.
The work has already been extended by the holding of a weeknight gathering for children; this has been rewarding, and it is hoped that a Gospel meeting for adults will be held in due course. The use of the present hired accommodation limits the work which can be done (especially as only classrooms are available), so the possible erection of a hall is under consideration.
‘Support the weak’
We should not forget the many small assemblies of our land. During the first three weeks of this year J. Burns had a time of blessing with the saints at Selivoe, Shetland. There are but few believers here and they rarely have the opportunity of hearing ministry from visiting brethren. As the first week progressed some outsiders came and of these some had not been to any place of worship for years. Thus the meetings developed to meet the needs of the unconverted as well, and this interest was maintained.
Another small gathering is found at Hoswick, fifteen miles south of Lerwick in the same island. During the past few years no fewer than four families have left the district, whilst another brother has passed away. This has left only a handful to maintain the testimony and of these half live a fair distance from the hall.
These are but two of the many gatherings of the Lord’s people that are low in numbers, and all these should be a burden upon our hearts and a matter for earnest prayer.
‘His work is perfect’
It frequently happens that the full results of a Gospel campaign are not seen for some time. When R. Walker was at Uddingston, Lanark, last year a local lady came to the meetings several times, and has since attended the meeting for women. Some months after the campaign she decided for Christ in her home one day, and now rejoices in her new-found Saviour.
A local brother, in spite of his own illness, endeavours to follow up all who showed any interest during that campaign. He has found much to encourage him in this work, and one man of over seventy is giving good assurance of being saved. How vital is the work of following up - and yet how often we neglect it!
‘to heal the broken-hearted’
Times of bereavement often bring a temporary softening in the hearts of the unsaved as far as spiritual truths are concerned, and sympathy shown to them in their sorrow can often be a step to further blessing. In common with one or two other assemblies in Ayrshire and Glasgow, the assembly at Annbank operates a postal work in an effort to reach bereaved families. An excellent booklet entitled ‘To the Bereaved’ is sent to every such home, accompanied by a letter of sympathy. In a community of just over one thousand homes, some four hundred such letters have been sent in the past thirteen years. As in many other areas true sympathy is not very common, and this makes the letters all the more acceptable. More appreciative replies have been received from the Roman Catholic section of the populace than from any other. Maybe this is one way by which the Gospel could be more widely brought before those who are blinded by Satan.
One man, now in fellowship, was first contacted by this means. On the very evening the correspondent was preparing this report, a telephone message was received telling of the desire of a young married woman and her mother to come to the Gospel meeting as a token of their appreciation of the sympathy extended to them. Another man took a letter written to him down the mine where he worked, telling his workmates that it was worth its weight in gold.
Sorrowing hearts abound in all districts, and as the children of the God of all comfort we should seek to bring them into the peace that passeth all understanding.
‘The Lord is gracious’
To keep before our minds the needs of the occupants of Old People’s Homes we have a report from Swansea, in which area there is a group of such houses. For some years, visits have been made to these on Friday evenings during the winter months by believers from the local assemblies, and they are allowed to hold meetings lasting some forty minutes without any restrictions. In most cases the master or matron of the home is very well disposed to the visits, helping in the arrangement of the meeting and gathering as many as possible together. When many of the residents need assistance in walking, this may be a lengthy task. The saints are even provided with a cup of tea and biscuits at the close. Conducted in the same manner as a Gospel meeting, the old folk join in the singing to the best of their ability, and it is evident that the visits are much appreciated, especially by the believers among them. Unfortunately a few of the homes have been closed to the believers during the last two winters, but it is believed that as a result of prayer the visits will soon be recommenced.
‘To the poor the Gospel is preached’
Lodging houses may not be found as frequently as in days gone by, yet in many towns they still provide an outlet for the believer seeking to ‘reach out’ with the Word of Life. The young brethren from the assembly at Hamilton, Lanark, visit the local lodging house on the first Lord’s Day in each month. As in previous years a special effort was made at Christmas, and they had the best response ever with some forty of the men listening. Before the Gospel service, which was both spoken and in song, the men were provided with a very good meal, including the old fashioned ‘Scotch dumpling’.
‘that I might by all means save some’
While believers are not to observe days and seasons, it is foolish to ignore the opportunities they present in reaching the unsaved. Thus when S. Ford was at Hebron Gospel Hall, Cullompton, Devon, for a week of special meetings in December, the Christmas Story formed his theme. The climax was an after-church Carol Service held in the local cinema, at which the believers were encouraged to see a large number of folk. These were not just believers from neighbouring assemblies but also townspeople, some of whom had never been to the services in the Hall. Some of these had come in response to personal invitations from the evangelist as he visited the housing estates. While there were no obvious results that night, subsequent comment from some who were present indicates that the Holy Spirit had forcefully applied the Gospel and it is hoped that this work will yet be brought to fruition.
Readers may recall the report of this assembly’s move into a new hall in 1962; since then, the activities have been expanded, a real effort being made to reach the teenagers of the town.
‘Our God is able’
The assembly at Dover court, Essex, has maintained a Sunday School for many years, but the work suffered a severe setback in 1953 when there was severe flooding. Sea water covered the hall floor to a depth of over three feet and no meetings could be held there for some time. In addition, most of the scholars lived in the flooded area, and being evacuated, never returned. When the school recommenced there was only a handful of children and attendances grew worse rather than better. However, no visiting was done to recruit new scholars.
The coming of a young brother early last year who had a keen desire for Sunday School work brought a revival of interest, followed by much prayer. Homes were then visited and there was a gratifying response. Three children who had previously attended were collected by car, and these brought four others as well. Opportunities are taken to speak to children in the parks and streets, especially when seen playing with Sunday School scholars. As a result, in a period of about nine months the average attendance has increased from five to thirty-five.
Such an experience should be a stimulus to those where schools have reached a similar low ebb, and a challenge to assemblies where there is no Sunday School.
‘Who is my neighbour?’
The seeking and winning of lost ones is not just the corporate responsibility of the assembly - so often it necessitates individual believers each doing his part at the right time. A student from Ghana has been training in electrical engineering in Ayr. Like so many others away from home he was feeling very lonely, so a sister from a country assembly introduced him to a young brother from Ayr. The latter took him to the meeting a number of times and one evening, after hearing this young brother preach at Irvine, the student expressed a desire to be saved. Are there no such lonely ones in whom we could, and should, take a personal interest?
‘God is faithful’
In the village of Dundonald, just outside Belfast, a few believers tried Gospel meetings in a house some thirty years ago. God worked through them and from that small beginning an assembly was eventually planted which met in a small wooden hall in which a Gospel work has been carried on ever since among young and old. With the erection of several housing estates, the village has grown into a thickly populated area in which a number of believers have come to live. As there have also been a number saved in the district, there are now over one hundred in fellowship, and the old hall has been outgrown. A new, comfortable hall was opened in January with a time of profitable ministry. The following night a special Gospel effort was started, the speaker being C. McEwen.
‘Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel’
Our reports of normal Gospel campaigns are confined this issue to Northern Ireland.
The small assembly at Drumenagh, a country area on the Lough Neagh shore, has been much encouraged by Gospel meetings taken in the hall by J. Thompson and two brethren from a nearby assembly. Attendances were good and the interest such that they continued for thirteen weeks. A number professed conversion, including a middle-aged farmer and his two sons.
Although there is a nice hall in Bleary, a few miles from Lurgan, the believers erected a portable hall in another part of the town for use by J. Martin and G. Marshall in the proclamation of the Gospel.
Here also the interest shown caused the meetings to be carried on for three months. Some professed conversion, both amongst outsiders and those connected with the assembly.
In a little country place called Growell in the same county of Armagh, R. Jordan had good meetings, yet it was difficult to get the people deeply interested.
Several weeks of good Gospel meetings were conducted at Ballysheagh) between Lisburn and Belfast, by two brethren. (The conversion of one of these was reported in this section some years ago). A portable hall was erected in the little village and there were sometimes as many as thirty unsaved present. Our brethren were encouraged by seeing some blessing for their efforts after their day at business.
The assembly at Ballyhackamore is one of the largest in Belfast, and here a special campaign was held toward the end of last year which was conducted by H. S. Paisley. The numbers who came and the interest they showed were an encouragement to all. Some who had been the subject of many prayers were among the several who professed faith in the Saviour.
‘Search the Scriptures’
If we are to be among those who ‘reach out’, we must have fed well upon our spiritual food. So it is good to hear of well attended ministry meetings, such as those at Hebron Hall, Larkhall, Lanark, when F. Cundick took as his subject the Minor Prophets, a section of the inspired Word that we are apt to ignore. When D. Craig ministered the Word in Bute Hall, Prestwick) it was said that they were ‘the best attended ministry meetings ever held in the hall’.
Are we obedient to the command ‘not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together’?
The weekly consecutive Bible Readings in Birmingham which were reported last year have continued to be profitable. It was a cause of rejoicing to see the truths outlined having a practical effect in the lives of the saints.
‘I have declared . . . Thy salvation’
Allesley Park Estate, Coventry) is on the west side of that city, and it provides homes for nearly five thousand people. A few years ago four married couples from other assemblies in that city came to live on this estate, and felt that the Lord desired them to commence a Gospel work there. In i960 open-air services were started for children, and this led to a Sunday School commencing in the home of one of the brethren at the opening of the following year. On the first Sunday the teachers were all present, but there were no children! In such ways the faith of God’s children is tested. For the next eight weeks there were only four children, but then gradually numbers grew until the room became so full that more space was needed. When this stage was reached God acted on their behalf. Previously the use of the local school had been denied to them, but at this juncture the caretaker was changed and they were able to rent accommodation. There are now over seventy scholars in the school. Encouraged by this a Gospel testimony was started in 1962 which has also given cause for thanksgiving.
Last year the local authority intimated that a site was available on the estate for the erection of a hall and this was taken to be a sign that the believers should meet as an assembly. So in December last, they gathered to remember the Lord in St. Christopher’s School, Allesley Park, Coventry.
‘Glory ye in His holy name’
There has been an assembly in the Werneth district of Oldham for some seventy-six years, and last autumn the saints moved into a new hall in Railway Road. They have been encouraged since then by a rapid rise in the attendance at Sunday School, over one hundred now being on the roll. While the numbers at the Gospel Meetings have not increased similarly, it is hoped to rectify this by systematic tracting.
‘My tongue shall speak of Thy word’
When these words are read, summer will not be far away. Plans for using these months for open-air work should be made now. Yet open-air teams and mobile units have one thing in common, they all report a need for workers.
One mobile unit secretary circulated the assemblies in the area, pointing out the need for young men since the average age of the workers was increasing and many were having to drop out because of increased responsibilities in their local assemblies. The response was negligible. Prayer is needed that the Lord will raise up fresh workers to take advantage of the liberty we have in this land to preach the Gospel in the open-air.