Revival Scenes in a Colliery Village
Memories of past mission activity used to urge the Church of 1916 into action!
Transcription of an Article In the Christian Messenger by W.M. Patterson
Of Scotch extraction, healthy, vigorous, resourceful, intelligent – such, plus grace, was May Johnstone when she arrived at West Moor Colliery, in Northumberland, to conduct a month’s special services. It is matterless how many years have flown since then. She has been a travelling preacher’s wife for many of them, and a mother to boot, and is still “keeping the flag flying.”
For a month previously, by nightly prayer meetings, the church had been preparing for the coming of the evangelist. “A solemn league and covenant” – how Scottish it sounds! but in those days West Moor knew the heroic means to “get into the glory” – was entered into by the members to seek conversions, and the attendance at the prayer meetings was good. The earnestness and unction of the young preacher soon laid hold of the hearts of the people, and from the outset the success of the services was assured. The congregations grew in numbers, and the power the Lord was present to heal. And many who attended, needed healing. Open-air missioning in the rows brought to chapel many who seldom, if ever, “darkened its door” and soon the chapel was packed, including aisles and pulpit.
After the first few nights, the open-air work was taken up by six or seven rough men, who had been converted in the initial services of the mission. It was a novelty to see them in their new enterprise, and their songs were decidedly novel in evangelistic work – “Auld lang syne,” “He’s a jolly good fellow,” and “Ring the bell, watchman,” for example. Their announcements, too, were unconventional. Johnny Turner and a number of others are not likely to forget the episode, nor the incident of the “spree ” before their conversion, when they arrived home without the horse and trap they had borrowed. On the night when “their chains fell off,” many of the people, who had gone home, returned to the chapel to know if it was true. After hearing the good news, all joined lustily in singing the Doxology. Some of these men are now filling official positions in the Church.
And so the work went up; men and women, youths and maidens, flocking to Jesus. But the full issue of it all can never be tabulated.
While sinners came to the Cross, the voice of Tommy Hindmarsh could be heard singing, as he marched up and down the aisle:
“We are coming; yes, we’re coming;
Blessed Jesus, at Thy call.”
He was a good man, who lived at the spring of things, and enjoyed the deep realities of the Christian life. Often in speech he put “the cart before the horse; ” and if you met him in the lane coming from the garden with a cabbage he would tell you: “Aa’ve just been doon the cabbage for a lonnen.” But hear him pray! He talked with God as one who knew Him, and every head was bowed in reverence, for the worst man in the village knew that Tommy’s religion was real.
Then there was Bamborough – preacher, singer, and fiddler – who almost lived at the church. He was a humorist, too. One Sunday afternoon he was preaching about Balaam and the ass, when a late-comer entered the chapel. “Hinny,” shouted Bamborough, “We’re half-way up the hill; thou’ll hev tae jump on at the hint end!” But when the work was going on, Bamborough was on his knees, shouting “Glory! glory! Pray’ on, hinnies!” And there “was old Charlton, a father in Israel, sitting quietly waving his red handkerchief in token of victory; and Brown, the man of prayer, who always sat under the clock, and whose fervent responses told their tale of his joy and fellowship with God? Bill and Dod Ball also, Crowe and Tom Hart, and many quiet workers to whom the Church owes much, who had little to say in public, but whose lives spoke volumes.
Nor must the hospitable Mr. and Mrs. Henderson be omitted, class-leaders both, who could be relied on at all times. “Not two lives were theirs,” it has been said, “but one in every sense of the word, and great was their interest in Divine things.” A Church possessing spirits such as those referred to can never be weak. How bravely they sought the wanderers, and how zealously they succoured the young converts! Many converts, though young in grace, had been old in sin. Their faithfulness has been rewarded.
Short glimpses into the past, such as the foregoing are illuminating – keenly illuminating in these years of Connexional decreases. Empty pews do not distress us; apparently fruitless services and sparsely attended Sunday night prayer meetings do not move us. Myriads of our young people do not know what it is to be at an open-air service, and never heard a soul in agony cry for mercy. Is it too much to say that we have societies that do not desire a revival of religion? “ That sort of thing is no class, you know! ” God help us! Where are we going to? Is it not time that we should “get down before the Lord,” as the old people used to say, seek for forgiveness and for renewal of power? The War has taught us to let many things alone. “In the old days Primitive Methodism was organised for war,” declared the Editor at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
Our fathers showed us how, in spirit and holy daring, to carry on the war. We have been shirkers; let us admit it. And now let us sign the “Solemn League and Covenant” and “storm the throne of grace and the kingdom of darkness.”
Christian Messenger 1916/125