It was in 1934 that a few believers first met to remember their Lord in a small hired room in Halesowen, Worcestershire. Five years later a hall was erected on the southern edge of the town, very near to green fields. These have now been replaced by fields that are ‘ready to harvest’, for hundreds of houses have been built and others are still in course of erection. As in many other districts, this presents a great opportunity and responsibility to those who have been entrusted by their Master with the Word of Life.
Although numbers gradually increased and attendances at all the meetings were good, the believers recognized that there was a great and increasing mass of people around who were not being reached with the Gospel. In an effort to remedy this, the area was divided into convenient units each of which was allocated to a team of believers undertaking to go from door to door. As an introduction, a news letter was published and a booklet was left when interest was shown. The aim was to contact people in a friendly and informal way and yet bring before them the Word of Life.
In the spring of this year P. Brandon conducted a three week campaign, when God was seen to work in the lives of many. His power was evident in the drawing to the hall of some whom the believers had never dared to hope would come inside. Altogether some twelve made professions of faith in the Saviour.
Although Shropshire is the largest of the inland counties of England it is quite thinly populated and there are only some six assemblies of believers, most of them being small numerically. One or two country places where there were little meetings in the past now have no assembly testimony. The construction of a New Town at Dawley will give opportunity for the development of a work there.
In the county town of Shrewsbury, a series of addresses on the tabernacle, illustrated by a large model, was given by G. Fenn of Norwich during two weeks in the spring; these nightly talks were much appreciated. This assembly also had the joy in May of witnessing the baptism of nine believers.
An annual effort is made in this town to gather old Sunday School scholars together for a special meeting. This year a large company came together, the speaker being D. Clapham. While not many known cases of salvation have resulted from these meetings, all present must be forcibly reminded of the truths that they were taught in their young days.
The Mere Green Gospel Hall, Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield, had to be pulled down in April this year, and the believers are still looking for suitable accommodation or a plot of land. Nevertheless, since that time the assembly has continued to function, a sports pavilion being used for the activities on Lord’s Days while the weeknight meetings have been held in the homes of various believers. This time of testing has resulted in the saints being drawn closer together and they have been encouraged not only by an increase in the number in fellowship but also by the growth in the attendances at Sunday School and the Gospel meeting.
The believers from Victoria Hall, Ayr, have traditionally held many open-air meetings in this seaside resort during the summer months. In recent years, however, they have been concerned at the increasing lack of interest. Many local residents prefer their television set to listening to the Gospel, whilst police regulations about the use of amplifying equipment are much stricter than formerly. Accordingly they decided this summer to terminate the open-air testimony and in its place to operate simultaneously several kinds of evangelism. Thus one group of workers visit an old persons’ home in the town, while another group visit one in the country. A little hall attached to an old folk’s colony provides an opening for a third group. Meanwhile a children’s service is conducted on a housing estate, and some half dozen brethren and sisters distribute tracts in streets outside the normal assembly tracting area.
Reports on these activities are given at the following weekly prayer meetings, when the prayers of the assembly can be concentrated on particular needs. In this way the whole gathering is kept informed and feels united in the work.
The summer’s work in Yorkshire commenced with a tent campaign in York itself, a typical cathedral city. A pitch was found on the outskirts of the city and the children responded well, about 150 coming each evening despite the arrival of a fair, while 50 teenagers came on their special nights. Many of the young ones spoke of responding to the message of the Gospel, and some of the believers are seeking to hire a hall where they can continue this work.
At Garforth, Leeds, a welfare hall was hired for two weeks of meetings taken by D. Iliffe in July. Cottage meetings were held in the homes of two believers. Local residents were taken by car, and the final gathering saw about twenty outsiders present. The interest shown has caused believers from assemblies in Leeds to continue the work among the children and also the cottage meetings. Further encouragement has come to those engaged in this work by a young married couple coming to live in Garforth who have a real interest in the work. This should cause each reader to ask, am I living in the place of my own choosing or where my Lord would have me to be?
Good numbers attended the services in the tent pitched by R. Saunders at Swaythling, Southampton, for three weeks from the end of May. The children’s services averaged 350 in attendance; teenagers about 250 and adults during the week about 100, with many local friends coming in for the weekend services. Among those who professed were many children, several teenagers and three adults, who, it is trusted, will prove their sincerity by continuing to follow the Master.
The special ‘hot dog and squash’ evenings held for teenagers proved to be an effective method of bringing young folk under the sound of the Gospel. The prize card and stamp system was a valuable incentive towards regular attendance by the children. A special ‘family service’ each Thursday evening in which the young people took part encouraged many parents to attend who would not otherwise have done so. The caravan was always open at the end of the day for older teenagers to come in for tea and biscuits; this proved to be a valuable means of gaining close contact with them, leading in turn to helpful discussions.
Local believers gave fine support in a prayerful and practical way; God gave liberty in preaching the Word and the last meeting will be long remembered by all who were present.
By way of contrast we have the tent work in North Devon, not in a large city but in small townships. When taking the Gospel to Lapford D. Pierce found that the greatest problem was that of religious opposition, which resulted in some not coming to the meetings. However, there was a good response from children and teenagers, and 69 came to the final service, four of them making professions of faith in the Saviour. The second site was at Chumleigh where much indifference was met. In fact, up to the last night only one or two strangers had been in the tent, but then, for a Parents Night the tent was quite full. Encouragement resulted from an ‘Over Sixties Tea’, when twenty came and had an enjoyable time, and from permission being given to the evangelist to address three large schools during their morning assembly.
Tents are not only of use in areas where there are no Gospel halls. Thus, while in years gone by it was comparatively easy to get good numbers of unsaved souls in for Gospel meetings in the thickly populated Bloomfield area of Belfast, of recent years this has changed. So the assembly, instead of holding special meetings in the hall, decided to pitch a tent on a piece of waste ground and asked R. Jordan and J. G. Hutchinson to be responsible for the meetings. The whole district was visited first, an invitation to the tent and a copy of ‘The Reason Why’ being left in almost every home, and later the evangelists visited daily for four weeks. The number of local people who came to the tent as a result was a cause of encouragement, and a number made profession of conversion.
In Renfrewshire, however, it was decided to hold the special summer Gospel meetings in various halls instead of in the tent. During May, these took place in Cruden Hall, Greenock, with S. Ford as the speaker, and out of the good numbers that came there were several who professed faith in the Lord Jesus. After a break of one week, the same evangelist carried on in Busby Gospel Hall, the after church rally being held in Clarkston Town Hall. Although attendances were not so good during this series, a few confessed to exercising faith in the Saviour.
Derbyshire is another county with a scattered populace, and here there are a dozen or so assemblies, three of them in the county town itself. At Curzon Street, Derby, a testimony has been maintained for over a century; by way of contrast Chaddesden, on the outskirts of the town, had its beginning seventeen years ago in a children’s work which followed special open air meetings. A goodly company of believers now gather in a newly built hall. Normanton, the other assembly in Derby, maintains a testimony with particular interest in open air, children’s and hospital work.
Following leaner times, the believers at Hatton have been encouraged recently by a number of conversions and the assembly has been added to (see May-June, 1963 issue). Some of the other assemblies are small, such as those at Bakewell, Wirksworth, and South Wingfield, but there is a consistent seeking to make known the glories of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To strengthen the testimony in these smaller towns, the believers from Derby go out on summer Saturday afternoons and join with them in open air work. Thus one week in May, they went to Bakewell, 26 miles away, and met with the saints at the Gospel Hall there. While the sisters moved from door to door handing out tracts, the brethren heralded the Gospel both by preaching and singing, looking to the Holy Spirit to guide in every way. After a picnic tea at the home of one of the believers, they held two open air services on a housing estate, where twenty teenagers listened; they then moved to the riverside adjacent to the park and cricket ground, where many folk were strolling around. The day concluded with a stand in the town centre, where people queuing for buses listened to four challenging messages.
In this way some have sought to discharge their responsibility to those who are sheep without a shepherd. Have you discharged yours?
During the year, there are many occasions when large crowds gather for festivals or sports meetings, creating great opportunities for those believers who are ready to bring before them the claims of God. Members of the South Wales Mobile Unit arranged rotas of workers to distribute Gospel literature among the crowds visiting the Welsh National Eisteddfod at Swansea during August Bank Holiday week.
Assemblies which are small in number should not be forgotten from our prayers. That at Ballina is the only one in the whole province of Connacht, Eire, the nearest being that at Limerick, 128 miles away. There are only three believers in this gathering, yet a faithful testimony has been maintained for many years. In addition there are two sisters in Co. Sligo and two in Co. Leitrim who are only able to get to the meetings about once a month because of the great distance.
Workers in Eire visited the towns of the counties of Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Westmeath and Offaly during June, holding open air meetings wherever possible. In some places the residents could not remember an open air testimony ever being held before. The congregations were one hundred per cent Roman Catholic but the Lord gave all needed help in dealing with difficult situations. Usually at least twenty, and often many more, listened for the whole of the meeting and portions of Scripture were normally accepted. This is a very needy area.
In the last issue reference was made to the special effort to distribute Gospel literature in Eire this summer. To commence this work nine brethren arrived in Co. Galway at the end of June and visited the homes in that neglected part of the country, seeking to reach souls by means of literature. As the number of workers increased to twelve for the second week, it was possible to divide into two teams, one of which worked in the Clifden district. During the following fortnight three teams were in operation as twenty workers were available; this enabled the Gospel to be carried into Co. Clare as well.
Many homes have been reached as efforts were made to visit even the most isolated homes. In addition to the free distribution of hundreds of Gospels, S.G.M. booklets and tracts, sales included 123 New Testaments, 694 copies of the ‘Four Gospels’ and 169 copies of ‘The Letters of Paul’, all in the Knox version of the Scriptures. As the Scriptures were given out it was possible to speak a word of personal testimony and to present simply the message of the Gospel.
How much more could be accomplished if the number of workers had been even doubled! How many other areas there are, maybe on our own doorstep, where the message of salvation is still unknown!
Three weeks of meetings in Olivet Hall, Falkirk, were taken by D. Barnes, the first week being devoted to the ministry of the Word and the remainder to Gospel witness. Although quite a few adults came under the sound of the Gospel, there were no known cases of conversion. The believers were encouraged by the children since the Sunday School, which had dropped to about twenty due to their removal to a temporary hall, increased to over sixty. A work among the women has also been commenced and has proved rewarding.
Large and encouraging meetings were experienced by believers when H. Paisley was at Aughavey, Co. Tyrone, a number coming from other assemblies in the area and bringing unsaved adults with them. Some spoke of experiencing salvation, including one man whose wife had rejoiced in the knowledge of salvation for thirty years. At the close of this series an outdoor baptismal service took place when a large crowd gathered to see three brethren baptized.
The results of Gospel work are not always so evident. J. Milne, a missionary from South America, and A. McShane, who had just recovered from a serious illness, used a portable hall to proclaim the way of salvation near Dromore, Co. Down. Although attendances were good and there was a sense of the presence of the Lord, no one spoke of receiving the Saviour.
Similarly at Sandhead, Wigtownshire, where there has been a small assembly for many years, J. Aitken found it hard to break through the reserve of both adults and children. Interest can be seen, however, in a few women who are attending the tent regularly.
Let us be stimulated in our Gospel activity by the thought that, no matter what the evident results, the proclamation of the Son as Saviour is a sweet savour unto the Father.
The town hall at Falkirk was the venue for the spring Gospel witness of the combined assemblies of Mid-Scotland. Held on the Lord’s Day evenings in April, a month later than previous years, numbers were the largest ever with an average of 750. As a result of the preaching of J. Robb, J. Rollo and A. Gray two made profession of faith in Christ while others showed a real interest.
This year the Ayrshire tent has been pitched at Newmilns, where the local assembly has been considerably depleted by removals. R. Walker was in charge and, having paid a previous visit to this little town, was well received everywhere. The efforts of the local believers were greatly aided by the almost nightly visits organised by saints from other assemblies in the county. These took it in turn to come for the prayer meeting and then proceeded to conduct an open-air meeting. This not only enabled the area to be more thoroughly evangelised but also ensured a good nucleus for the tent meeting. This idea could well be copied elsewhere. During the five weeks of the campaign, unsaved souls were present almost every night.
Since the tent was pitched adjacent to the school it was felt that the children’s meetings should be held immediately school was finished. As a result nearly 100 attended. When the school holidays began a weekly service for the young was held in a pavilion in a playing field near the main housing estate.
The Lanarkshire tent was at Bellshill for seven weeks in the care of D. Barnes. One lad in his teens was saved and is now in assembly fellowship after being baptized. Another lad, who had been previously invited several times, listened to the evangelist inviting folk in during the last week. Hearing the words, ‘Pocket your pride and come to the tent’ the young man said, ‘He is speaking to me’, went straight into the tent and was saved. The following evening he was out taking his place in the open-air march.
At New Stevenston in the same county five young believers were baptized at the end of May, and the parents of one of them have since trusted the Saviour.
It was in 1929 that three brethren in fellowship at Berwick Hall, Gateshead-on-Tyne, were exercised about the need for open-air work at Felling. In fellowship with their assembly and with the active support of some, they proclaimed the Gospel, meeting with much opposition. After a hall was hired, some results were seen and several were baptized. Thus in eighteen months an assembly testimony was established, some coming from Berwick Hall. They continued to meet in hired premises until 1959 when they were able to purchase a large house which has been adapted into very good accommodation. The Sunday School has now increased to about sixty, although the assembly is still very small.
There has been a small assembly in Hucclecote, Gloucester, since 1957. The rapid increase recently in the number of houses in the area turned the thoughts of the believers to the need of a special Gospel effort. This took place in July when D. Hyslop pitched his tent on the lawn of Hill View Gospel Hall for a three weeks’ campaign. Large numbers of children were attracted (on one occasion the tent was filled with 100 youngsters), their hearty chorus singing causing quite a stir; a number of professions of salvation were made. The adult attendance was not so good, despite house-to-house visitation by the evangelist and his co-labourers. Several folk brought along by visitors from neighbouring assemblies accepted the Saviour. A further answer to prayer was seen in the restoration to fellowship of a believer, which followed the conversion of his son at the opening meeting.