“Incredible”: autobiography of John Nelson Parr — Contents
Chapter Four: Incredible Pentecostal Revival
In 1914 the First World War started and for about ten years the Pentecostal meetings in the British Isles made very little progress, in fact, during the war from 1914 to 1918 they were greatly impoverished; this was due to the fact that we were not a recognised Christian movement, we had no constitution, and when our young men, Pastors and leaders appeared before the tribunals set up by the Government to deal with conscientious objectors, they received very little consideration. They were nearly all sent to prison, where in some instances they were brutally treated, or they were sent to work on farms in various parts of the country. Deprived of leadership and the help of a very large number of young men, the Pentecostal work seriously declined. The brutal treatment received by some of the Pentecostal preachers when they entered prison was one of the major reasons why, at a later date I took steps to organise the Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland, and also when I prepared the draft of the first Constitution made sure a clause was included which set forth our attitude to war. This constitution and the clause referring to war proved invaluable when the Second World War started in 1939 and we had no difficulty in obtaining exemption for our Ministers, Ministerial Candidates and Bible School Students. Several have written articles and books on the history of Pentecost in Britain and the formation of the Assemblies of God but they have omitted this, one of the major motives, which compelled me to take steps to bring together all the independent Pentecostal meetings into one fellowship with an official constitution including a clause setting forth our attitude to war.
Two months before the war started in 1914 I was married to Miss Laura France. It was a real Pentecostal wedding and my wife proved to be a most magnificent partner during the following forty five years of Christian service and never on one occasion did she raise one word of objection when called to tread the path of sacrifice and in every way she proved to be one of the most wonderful partners any Pastor or Evangelist ever had.
When the war started in 1914 the Crossley factory was nearly closed down owing to the lack of orders and I was compelled to obtain a position elsewhere and the way was opened for me to work with Mr. G. De Havilland the aircraft designer at his factory in Hendon, where I was Purchase Manager. One day he arranged for me to go for a flight in a De Havilland fighter. This was a two-seater with an open cockpit. We flew round the outskirts of London. I remember Captain Hucks shouting through the intercom: “Hold on tight when we alight. I have lost a wheel”. Fortunately we alighted without any damage. During our stay in Hendon we attended the meetings at the Pentecostal Church at Westbourne Grove (now known as Peniel). We were there for about three years.
In 1917 Sir Kenneth Crossley offered me a wonderful post at a new factory in Manchester employing about two thousand employees. The Lord was undoubtedly behind this move for it meant we were able to again attend the Pentecostal meetings in Manchester. Unfortunately war conditions had seriously affected the church and only about fifteen people were attending the meetings, which were now being held in a room over a greengrocers shop; then again the leader of the meetings held very extreme Brethren views on certain matters, such as women keeping absolutely silent in the meetings, and having no musical instrument played at the breaking of bread service. It was definitely clear to me that no progress could be made while this man forced his views upon the church; and steps were taken for his expulsion. This resulted in the church asking me to take over the Pastorate. It was in 1917 that I became part-time Pastor, while still holding a very responsible and very lucrative position in a large factory. The following ten years were very hard going and many times I stood alone in the open-air meeting, preaching the Gospel, in fact, one of the best open-air meetings I remember was when standing alone at the corner of a main road proclaiming the glorious Gospel of Christ, a great crowd gathered and at the close a few came forward to accept Jesus as their personal Saviour. The blessing of God was now resting on the Manchester Pentecostal Church. We were the only Pentecostal Church in Manchester at that time.
When the Pentecostal Revival commenced in Sunderland, those who were Baptised in the Spirit, with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues were advised to return to their churches taking the fire with them, but unfortunately many who did this soon had their fire extinguished by the cold, lifeless and dead formalistic atmosphere. About this time the Lord raised up three outstanding revivalists, Evangelist Smith Wigglesworth, Pastor George Jeffreys and Pastor Stephen Jeffreys and amazing supernatural signs, wonders and miracles were seen in their meetings.
One of the outstanding results of the campaigns conducted by Pastor George Jeffreys was the formation of new Pentecostal Churches distinct from the recognised denominations and they were ultimately formed into an organisation called the “Elim Pentecostal Alliance”; there were, however, many independent Pentecostal meetings who would not join the Elim Movement because their churches were governed and controlled by a centralised headquarters.
Chapter 6: An Incredible Burden
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