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John Nelson Parr (1886–1976)

1965, the year that changed my life
A letter from the Williamses

John Nelson Parr, at the opening of the Full Gospel Church, Lowther Road, Fleetwood, in 1935…

…and as I remember him, ca.1970.
 1. John Nelson Parr was a name we heard mentioned a number of times at the Full Gospel Church, Fleetwood. He was apparently well known in Pentecostal circles, and the fact that he had retired and come to live in Fleetwood lent us, it seemed, some sort of prestige. Richard English referred to him as “the Peter Pan of Pentecost”, because he was so active and youthful, even at the age of nearly eighty. The reason we hadn’t seen him was that since November he had been in Florida and California preaching the gospel in evangelistic crusades, and was now doing the same in South Africa.

 2. He was the pioneer in 1924 of the Assemblies of God movement in the UK, and had recently retired from the pastorate of the 1000-strong Bethshan Tabernacle in Longsight, Manchester, which he had founded in 1917 and led for 46 years.

 3. His return to Fleetwood was expected with great anticipation, and duly celebrated with a special tea. His most noticeable features were his full head of pure white hair, and his piercing, keen eyes. His face was well sun-tanned, and he wore wire, rimless glasses. He stood erect with no hint of a stoop or of the frailty that comes with advanced years. He wore a light grey, three-piece, double-breasted suit.

 4. When he preached his voice ranged from a deep, low rumble to a deafening shout. His uncompromising message to the “unsaved” was hell-fire and damnation unless they repented. After the introduction, three points and conclusion of his gospel message, he would start telling scary anecdotes, usually beginning with the expression, “I once knew a man…”
 “I once knew a man,” he would rumble. “He went up to the bathroom, slipped on some soap, and bashed his brains out on the corner of the bath.

“How tragic! How terrible!”

The intensity of the shout would be alarming. But the words that followed would tail off almost into inaudibility:

“Ushered into eternity without hope and without God!”

 4. The scene, I think, was the bathroom for the demise of another man he once knew. This one had a splitting headache, went up to the bathroom, opened the medicine cabinet and swallowed several pills from a bottle, before he realised with growing horror that it was — the wrong bottle!

“How tragic! How terrible!
Ushered into eternity without hope and without God!”

 5. His message to the “saved” was to be filled with the Holy Ghost — be “on fire for God”, as he put it — and to get “soulwinning”. He would lament the fact that millions of Christians never win a soul for Jesus Christ. He envisaged the Judgment, where a person who had lived and worked with a Christian for many years, on being condemned to hell, would point the finger and accuse that person: “You never told me!”

See J. Nelson Parr: Soulwinning Simplified, 1966; “Incredible” (autobiography), 1972, both published by the author.
Peter Gooding and I “nail our colours to the mast”


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