John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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T. L. Osborn

1965, the year that changed my life
The Free Trade Hall

"T. L. Osborn"
Perhaps September 1965
 1. The American evangelist T. L. Osborn, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, visited the UK in the latter part of 1965 for an evangelistic and divine healing crusade. I had already heard him on an LP at the Williamses’,[more] and now here he was in person. I don’t know what his itinerary was, but I do know that he was at Bolton Town Hall for a number of days, and that I went to see him on more than one evening. Precisely how many times I did so is unclear, for our recollections — Chris’s and mine — of events are only fragmentary. I have the impression of large crowds of people being there, but not so many that they could not be seated.

“Bolton Town Hall” — and there I am, in 1977.
Valerie Morning
 2. My Dad and I went one evening in someone else’s van. After his conversion, my Dad got friendly with a chap who, I think, also worked at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance central office at Norcross (a five-minute walk from our home in Thornton). Perhaps my Dad had started attending the Christian Union at Norcross and had met him there. This chap owned a small van, and it was in this that we went to Bolton. It only had seats at the front, but a makeshift seat had been made up in the back, and it was in this that I sat. Next to me, was an attractive young lady, slim but full-figured, whom I hadn’t met before, called Valerie Morning. She had a short, wavy hairdo, so wasn’t what Peter and I would call “our type”, exactly; but I was nevertheless left with a feeling of “butterflies in the stomach” after getting acquainted with her that night. I kept thinking of her and trying to bring the image of her face to mind: clear-complexioned, with a hint of the orient about her eyes. She went to the Bible Pattern church in Shaw Road, Blackpool.

The appeal
 3. It may have been that evening, that when T. L. Osborn gave the appeal and called for those wishing to be saved, I put my hand up. When he spoke about the shortcomings of those who do not belong to Christ, I must have identified myself in what he said. And when he gave the appeal, my heart started beating hard, and in a transport of breathlessness I put my hand up; such is the emotional pressure of these appeals. Those who had responded were then asked to go out to the area at the front of the meeting, and I joined the crowd that did so. “T. L.” then prayed for us all; it may have been a “repeat-after-me”-style prayer.
I believe that thay-ou didst daah for me.
I believe that thou didst die for me.
Forgee-uv ahll mah see-yuns.
Forgive all my sins.
Wash me in the blerd of the Lay-am.
Wash me in the blood of the Lamb.
— and so on.
 I seem to remember shaking “T. L.’s” hand at some time, but perhaps that was on another occasion.
Afterwards, Leslie Smith took me to task about what he considered to be a lapse of faith on my part in going out during the appeal. This scolding probably took place at my house after the next Sunday-evening church meeting.

"Les and his wife Maureen" — ca.1967
 Les and his wife Maureen[1] (Richard English’s sister)[2] had become friendly with my parents and would often come to our house after church. Les’s argument was that I must already have been saved or I wouldn’t have been filled with the Holy Spirit. He referred to John 14:17, which talks about “the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him…”
[1] Les and… Maureen: See Sunday 2nd January 1966 for a list of references to them.
[2] Richard English: See Our first visit to the Full Gospel Church, Fleetwood; My Dad goes to the church; and Back at church.
 4. T. L. Osborn’s giving an appeal — and the fact that he prayed for the sick — was a quite familiar, and therefore acceptable, practice to me. Another thing that he did, although not arousing much feeling from me either way, came in for a lot of criticism from people I spoke to later on. He got everyone to bow in prayer, and said that the Lord had told him that so many would be willing to promise his organisation so much a month, to assist in the work of evangelistic outreach all over the world. I can’t remember the precise figures he used, but let us say it was thirty people to donate twenty pounds a month (a lot of money in those days). And the appeal went on and on. It got to twenty-five people who responded, twenty-six — and here he was, still insisting that the Lord had told him thirty. Twenty-seven—
 I remember Pastor Stanley in particular being critical of this method of fund-raising, either by appeals in meetings or in T. L. Osborn’s free, monthly promotional magazine Faith Digest. He said people were giving their tithes to T. L. Osborn that should be going to their local churches.

"Pastor Stanley" — Stanley Smith, 1969 photo
 In years to come, T. L. Osborn got adverse publicity in newspapers like the Daily Mail, when he introduced what he called his “Pact of Plenty”: his argument was that you couldn’t out-give God; if you gave to God, God would give more to you in return. So you gave your money to God’s servant (guess who!) and God rewarded you by making you rich.

 5. Chris remembers going to one meeting in the same van that I went in with Valerie Morning, and sitting next to me in the same made-up seat. My Dad was again in the front passenger seat, and a conversation was going on.

"Chris… I…" — 1965
 My Dad was telling the chap who owned the van that he still liked a drink. This suggests that he was aware that such a thing was frowned upon by the ones he considered to be more “mature” Christians.
 “Oh, well, Charles,” replied the other, diplomatically, “conversion affects different people in different ways.”
 My Dad was still a relatively new convert, and this chap was a bit of a spiritual counsellor or guide to him at this time.

 6. There was one evening when I sat in the town hall next to Peter, but Chris wasn’t there. I remember this because at some point in the meeting, those present were invited to subscribe, free of charge, to Faith Digest. Cards were handed out for people to put their names and addresses on; I completed one for myself and Peter completed one for himself. Then we thought of Chris, and Peter completed another one for him. Peter’s handwriting wasn’t very clear, and so instead of the magazine being addressed to C. Woodhead, Chris would always get one addressed to V. Woodmead.

"Peter and I" — 1965
 7. I can’t remember how Peter and I travelled to Bolton on this occasion. It’s possible, I suppose, that Peter was present at the time I met Valerie Morning, but I don’t recall his being there. Certainly, though, there was a time when we both rode in the van together, because I remember Peter nearly going crazy because the driver always drove in top gear, slipping the clutch whenever he had to slow down (for example, to go across the railway tracks at Carleton level crossing).

In 1965, Carleton Crossing would have had gates, not a raised barrier.
 However, I think this memory belongs to a lift home around this time from a party in this chap’s house in Blackpool. His daughter, I think, had given the party (was her name Sheila?); and there were a number of young people present, including, perhaps, Valerie Morning.


I remember that party to which we were invited! Wasn't their house somewhat out-of-the-way somewhere? It may still have been in Blackpool, but it seemed semi-rural. Marton Moss or somewhere? Anyway, it started off OK, with the usual buffet-style refreshments and with people just chatting and having fun. Then, after a while, one of the girls, either Valerie Morning or the one you have called Sheila, opened the piano and started banging out choruses. If I remember rightly, the one they started singing first was, "The Lion of Judah shall break every chain...". A couple of people sitting next to me were looking decidedly uncomfortable with it all. There had been no warning that this would be an integral part of the programme, and they were clearly seen as "unsaved" and had presumably been invited for this reason. The guy turned to me and said something like, "We wouldn't call ourselves believers, and were're just not used to this sort of thing." I can't remember what I said, but, looking back, it confirms my present conviction that luring people to such a location just to turn on the hard-sell routine is usually counter-productive. It probably makes them feel that they've been invited under false pretences, and confirms their suspicion that evangelical Christians are, at best, a bit of a whacky bunch!
# posted by Blogger Chris : 20 March 2009 at 15:16

I think you're right about the location, Chris. I have the same impression, now that you mention it. It may have been this Sheila's birthday. I don't remember anything about the party, though, good or bad — apart from the merest hint of a memory of seeing some books — a little library, or a large bookshelf — among which was material on or by Gladys Aylward. I'm not sure even whether the family, whose guests we were, were related to Gladys Aylward.
# posted by Blogger JohnEdwardCooper : 20 March 2009 at 18:28

The Knott End campaign

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