AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JOHN NELSON PARR
Nelson Parr, Fleetwood, Lancs. England.
This book is the incredible story of the
supernatural power of the supernatural grace of God revolutionising the
life of a newsboy and giving him a supernatural ministry producing
supernatural results in the life of thousands in all parts of the world:
AN INCREDIBLE CONVERSION
“Special”, “Special”, “Special”. This was one of the street cries of the Victorian days, and it was being shouted by the newspaper boys as they ran, very fleet of foot, through the streets. The first to reach a district would be the first to sell his papers and he reaped, what to him, in those days, was a rich reward. Ordinary papers were sold for one half-penny, but specials were double the price and sold for one penny. One of those boys who was fleet of foot was John Nelson Parr. Specials were published when important national events had taken place, such as, a declaration of war, a Royal death, the results of Parliamentary and Municipal elections, and other similar events of national importance.
Drink impoverished my home and in order to help my mother, I became a newspaper boy. I was the eldest of a family of five and I delivered newspapers before going to school and evening papers after coming from school, and also sold specials when they were published.
I was educated at Ross Place Council School, Ardwick, Manchester, and after reaching the highest class passed a scholarship examination, but owing to the unsatisfactory conditions prevailing at home could not avail myself of the higher education provided by the scholarship and started work at the age of thirteen.
My first job was at a textile engineers and I started work at 6 a.m. We were awakened in the morning at 5 a.m. by the old-fashioned “Knocker Up”. This was usually a woman or a man using a long pole with a few strands of wire fastened at the top of the pole and this was vibrated on to the window. The “Knocker Up” would not stop rattling at the window until you got out of bed and looked through the window. We worked from 6 a.m. until we stopped for breakfast at 8 a.m. and stopped for lunch at noon and finished for the day at 5.30 p.m. and we finished work at noon on Saturdays. I hated the job and after some time left textile engineering. It was a great day when I took home my first week’s wages. The amount was 5/- and I worked a 53-hour week to earn this magnificent amount.
From that time I became very irresponsible and from the age of fourteen to about seventeen I had nine different jobs. Perhaps one thing which contributed to this phase of my life was the fact that I discontinued going to Sunday School. I was compelled to go to Sunday School at an early age and do not regret this; but the superintendent expelled me at the age of thirteen for gross misconduct. I was confirmed in the Church of England at the age of twelve.
Although I was continually in trouble at Sunday School for misbehaviour, the word of God must have entered my mind, for many times after my conversion, at the age of seventeen, I would suddenly think of scriptures which I had never read except during those days when I attended Sunday School.
It was a very providential event in my life when my parents moved from Ardwick, Manchester, to Bradford (Manchester). The hand of God was undoubtedly behind this move for it became the turning point in my life. Someone invited me to join a very prosperous organisation — it was the Crossley Lads’ Club and it was under the patronage of Sir William Crossley, one of the founders of Messrs. Crossley Brothers Ltd., the famous gas, oil and diesel engine works. The Lads’ Club had about twelve bible classes, held every Sunday, and one of the conditions of membership was that all members must attend a Bible Class. I did not mind this as the club ran four football clubs and I was very keen on playing football, having played for Ross Place School and was very nearly chosen for the English Schools’ Boys’ Team.
I entered into many of the club’s activities, including football, cricket, swimming and cross-country running. One year I remember winning the batting and bowling prizes. At that time I was studying Greek and Latin very hard for an entrance examination into a Theological College and my prizes were a text book on Greek and one on Latin.
It was when running with the Harriers I met a young man who was used by the Lord to bring me to Christ. This young man was the Lancashire and Cheshire Cross Country Running Champion and I admired him very much. He was a Christian and a splendid character. Many times when we were running together he would ask me to go with him to a Young People’s Meeting which was associated with the Crossley Lads’ Club. The Meeting was held every Tuesday night in Crossley Hall and, at last, in order to keep him quiet, I consented to go. The Speaker was the Rev. A. E. Dearden. I do not know what his subject was and he did not give an invitation for any to decide for Christ but I remember while he was speaking something said to me, “That is what you need”, so after he had finished speaking I went up to him and said, “Can I give my life to Jesus Christ?” He said, “Yes, come this way”. He took me into the vestry and prayed for me. I cannot remember him showing me any scriptures — he may have done this — and I do not know if I prayed, but I do know from that night my whole life was revolutionised and transformed.
Agnostics, atheists and infidels may argue until they are blue in the face about the bible and the existence of God, but ten thousand atheists could not convince me that the Risen Son of God, Jesus Christ, did not that night in April 1904, come into my heart and revolutionise my whole life. I was instantaneously transformed, my whole nature was changed, my heart was filled with joy and rapture and I remember walking through the streets feeling I was walking on air. I knew nothing of being born again but now I know that I was born again that night. We sometimes sing “I came to Jesus weary, worn and sad”, but I did not feel weary, worn and sad, in fact I was enjoying my life of sport to the full but that night Jesus Christ gave me eternal life and life which has satisfied me for nearly seventy years.
I was 17½ years of age when The Lord Jesus came into my heart and life. The Rev. A. E. Dearden was the Minister of Crossley Hall, Whitworth Street, Openshaw, Manchester. As I walked up and down Whitworth Street, the joy of salvation filling my heart, the same voice said to me, “Go and tell your father”. So off I went and told my father I had given my life to Jesus Christ. Subsequent events showed that he thought I had gone mad.
I commenced attending all the services at Crossley Hall, which was connected with the Crossley Lads’ Club, and their Sunday night congregation was usually about 600. After a few weeks the Rev. Dearden put me into Christian Service. Every Sunday morning, at 9 a.m., I went with others distributing Gospel tracts from house to house and also talking to the people about the Gospel and inviting them to Crossley Hall. Mr. Dearden was a splendid organiser and a great soul winner. We had weekly open air meetings and also cottage meetings in various districts. I was just turned seventeen when the Lord saved me in April, 1904 and after a few months I was speaking in the open air and also at cottage meetings.
How well I remember my first attempt to speak in public. It was in the open air and I had decided to memorise my address and speak without notes. We had an open air pulpit on wheels. When I ascended the steps of the pulpit and looked at the people my heart failed me and so did my memory. I forgot everything, just said a few words and then descended the pulpit steps feeling a hopeless failure. The other workers encouraged me and ultimately it was a great joy to preach the Gospel at open air meetings and cottage meetings nearly every week.
My first answer to prayer was very wonderful and greatly increased my faith in God. Shortly after I was saved I heard an address on Psalm 15, and the speaker emphasised verse five, “He that putteth not out his money to usury”. I was in charge of a money lender’s branch office and the firm charged a very high rate of interest on the money loaned to clients. As a Christian, after hearing that address, I felt I should obtain another situation. I did not mention this to anyone but commenced to pray. One night the secretary of Crossley Lads’ Club asked me if I was looking for a job. I told him I was very anxious to change my job and that night he gave me a letter and told me to take it to Messrs. Crossley Brothers Ltd. and I started working for the firm as a junior clerk and that was the beginning of a marvellous cycle of events in my life.
I continued playing football and cricket for about one year after I gave my life to Jesus Christ but as I grew in grace my desire for the work of God and Spiritual things became very intense and the Lord showed me I could use the time given to sport for seeking the unsaved, so I said Goodbye to the sports arena. The Lord was very gracious to me and led me step by step into a life of full consecration and separation. My love for the Bible became intense and often I read many chapters every day.
The Bible says “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord”. It has also been said “The stops of a good man are ordered by the Lord”, and some of the greatest deliverances in my life have been when the Lord stopped me taking certain paths. The first stop was about 1907 and I would be about twenty years of age. Sir William Crossley asked the Rev. Dearden to choose two young men who he thought would be suitable for the Ministry and he would pay expenses for them to go through a Theological Seminary. One of the young men was a friend of mine and I was also chosen. It was essential we should pass an examination in Greek and Latin to qualify for entrance into the College. At that time I would get up about 6 a.m., run about one mile to an open air swimming pool, have a short swim, summer and winter, then run back home and study Greek, Latin and the Bible, before going to work. I had no difficulty in passing the examination and took a first in Greek and a second in Latin and was all set for the Theological Seminary.
I had been attending some meetings at the Manchester Holiness Church, Star Hall, Manchester, and the Evangelist, The Rev. John Thomas, took a great interest in me. He heard I was going to Theological College and one night he had a private talk with me and warned me about going to the college. He told me about one young man who, he said. “Was just as zealous and consecrated as you are and also had a great passion for souls”. He continued: “I never thought anything could alter him but he came out of the Theological College a higher critic” (that is what they called modernists in those days). Mr. Thomas also informed me the young man in question had lost all his zeal and passion for lost souls. I took his advice and cancelled my application for admission to the college. This was a most terrific decision and my action created a terrible situation and the Minister, Sir William Crossley, and all concerned were very bitterly disappointed, seeing I had done so well at the entrance examination.
Looking back now after nearly sixty years’ Christian experience I consider that was one of the most wonderful Divine stops in my life. My friend entered the Theological College and after he had been there about twelve months I paid him a visit and to my horror discovered he was rapidly becoming a higher critic. He told me the first five books of Moses were mostly Jewish mythology and we had no proof they were written by Moses. The last I heard of him he was the Minister of a very tiny Chapel in a very tiny village.
My soul magnifies the Lord for this great deliverance and I rejoice to see that even then, when I was only about twenty years of age, He who could see the future had Bethshan Tabernacle in mind, when He preserved me from becoming a higher critic or a modernist. If the Lord had not given me grace to accept the advice of Rev. John Thomas, there would have been no Bethshan Tabernacle, and thousands who have been saved would have been lost; scores of consecrated workers who are Pastors, Missionaries and Evangelists would not be in the work of God and I would never have had the joy of preaching for over fifteen years, the glorious Gospel of Christ, to millions over the radio all over the world. A billion praises to the Lord Jesus for this magnificent stop.
I left Crossley Hall and went with my young lady (Miss Laura France) to Star Hall, Ancoats, Manchester. The young lady ultimately became my wife and for over forty-five years we laboured together in the Gospel of Christ. No preacher could have wished for a more devoted and consecrated partner in life. Her devotion and loyalty as we walked the paths of service and sacrifice baffle description. I can only use the words found in 2 Kings 4:8: “a great woman”.
Star Hall was a Holiness Church. The two ladies in charge of this church were Miss Crossley and Miss Hatch. They were two of the finest Christian ladies I have ever met in any part of the world. The Evangelist at the Star Hall was the Rev. John Thomas and he was a very wonderful Gospel preacher and a great soul winner. At Star Hall I met some very fine consecrated young men who were on fire for winning lost souls. We were holding open air meetings two or three times every week and every Saturday we went to the great Manchester football grounds carrying banners, bearing Gospel texts, distributing Gospel tracts and holding an open air meeting when thousands were coming out of the ground at the close of the match. We often had banana skins and other objects thrown at us but we also had the blessing of God upon our witness. We also held an open air meeting right in the centre of Manchester, every Saturday night. During those days I was learning how to win souls and how to preach the Gospel. I was also very busy studying, what was considered by many Christian leaders, the best Bible correspondence course in the country at that time. Looking back I can see how the Lord was giving me marvellous practical training and invaluable experience for my future ministry.
I shall never forget the first Saturday I walked out of the front door of my home with a Gospel banner over my shoulder. It was not the type which can be rolled up. It was a piece of board fastened on the end of a long pole and the texts on the banner were “Be sure your sin will find you out”, and on the other side “Jesus saves from sin”. It was a great test of obedience and, although I was very nervous, the Lord gave me the victory.
One Monday morning a director of Messrs. Crossley Brothers Ltd. sent for me. I was only a junior clerk and wondered what was going to happen. As soon as I entered the huge private office, he said “Did I see you at the football match on Saturday, Parr?” I replied “Yes Sir.” Then he said “Is there any sin in going to a football match?” This question opened up the way for a very interesting conversation and gave me the opportunity of giving him my testimony. He asked me if I intended going into the Ministry. At that time I was thinking of going to Tibet as a Missionary and I told him that was my desire. He told me he would be delighted to help me financially if I was ultimately accepted. The meetings at Star Hall were very wonderful and especially the great Easter convention. Cubicles were fixed up in the basement of Star Hall and some of us stayed on the premises to really have four days with God. It was my privilege to hear some wonderful preachers, including J. G. Govan (founder of the “Faith Mission”). I remember one of his addresses having a terrific effect upon my life of consecration and abandoned dedication to the work of Christ. The ministry of Thomas Cook of Cliff College, Dr. Kunz, Dr. Stalker, Dr. Caradine all of U.S.A. and many others had a terrific impact on my Christian life. About this time I went on several occasions to the Great Keswick Conventions in the Lake District and had the joy of hearing Dr. Campbell Morgan, Rev. J. H. Jowett, Rev. Gregory Mantle, Rev. Graham Scroggie and others. The ministry of these great preachers was used by the Lord to prepare me for my future ministry.
The more consecrated I became the more devoted I was to the work of the Lord and the work of winning souls for Christ. This life of full surrender and consecration increased the antagonism of my father. One night he became very wild and I had to leave home for some days in order to avoid something serious happening. About this time I celebrated my twenty-first birthday and owing to his furious antagonism, I had no birthday party and no presents so I bought myself a watch and asked the Lord to give me one soul as a birthday present. I considered winning one soul for Christ would be the greatest birthday present anyone could receive. There was a Gospel Meeting that night at Star Hall and I went round the streets about half an hour before the meeting was due to start, looking for my birthday present. I spotted a young man standing under a street lamp and I invited him to come to the Meeting with me. He gladly came. We sat together and while the Evangelist was preaching I was praying that the Lord would save that young man. To my great joy he was the first to raise his hand, when the invitation was given, and then he went out to the old fashioned altar. His name was Tommy Morrow. To me that was the greatest birthday present I have ever received. The last time I heard about Tommy Morrow, he was preaching the Gospel to the backwoodsmen in the Canadian forests.
About this time I had a great burden for Tibet and was definitely sure the Lord had called me to preach the Gospel in that country. My application was rejected by two Missionary Societies, however, I was so sure the Lord had called me to Tibet; I decided to obtain a position as Secretary, learn the language and then enter Tibet and preach the Gospel to those who had never heard the Good News. I managed to obtain a position as Secretary in a Missionary rest home in Darjeeling. Everything was arranged except the time of my sailing from England, when suddenly, without any explanation, the door was shut. This was a grievous disappointment but it has turned out to be the second marvellous Divine stop in my Christian life. If I had stubbornly pushed the door open and insisted on going to Tibet, there would never have been a Bethshan Tabernacle and thousands of souls would not have been brought to the Saviour through my Ministry at Bethshan and over the radio. How wonderful are the ways and plans of the Lord and often they are beyond our understanding. For years I could not understand why the door into Tibet had been so amazingly closed. This incident shows that, often, as the heavens are higher than the earth so are the ways of the Lord higher than our ways. This supernatural stop would be about 1908 and I would be about twenty-two years of age.
My first experience of working among boys and girls was given to me while I was a member of Star Hall. It would be about 1907 when a Manchester City Missionary asked me to help him. He was in charge of a Mission in one of the slum districts of Manchester. I went every week to help him keep about one hundred tough boys and girls in order. The experience gained in the Manchester Ancoats district working among boys and girls became very useful in later years. It was also my joy to speak at an open air meeting held in that district every week. The open air meeting was held in the quadrangle of some flats known as Jersey Street Dwellings. The district had a very infamous reputation and the police always went on patrol in twos. When I was speaking one night a man stripped to the waist came out of one of the flats, looked over the balcony and fuming with madness, shouted at me in violent language and then shook his fist at me and gave vent to all kinds of oaths. He looked like a prize fighter. He disappeared and then suddenly appeared round the corner of the quadrangle, ran at me as I stood preaching in the centre of the square, raised his fist to hit me but immediately after glaring at me turned round and ran away. To me this was a marvellous Divine deliverance.
I was saved from sin in April 1904 but it would be about 1908 when I first heard about the second coming of Christ. I had never, to my knowledge, ever heard a sermon on this subject, but one day an old man asked me “Did I know that Jesus Christ was coming again”. I said “No”. I remembered going to his home and he showed me the scriptures teaching the second coming of Jesus Christ; from that moment this important subject has thrilled me. I have read nearly all the books written by famous writers on this subject, and also studied very much the teaching of the Word of God on this very thrilling theme and now over sixty years after my first introduction to that glorious subject I am still captivated by the thought that Jesus may come again at any moment. I am not looking for the Lord Jesus coining in flaming fire with his mighty angels taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the Gospel… but I am looking for the Lord “Himself”, our glorious Bridegroom coming for the redeemed Church, His glorious bride. I am not looking for the man of sin but for the Man of Calvary, the Glorified Son of Man. I am not looking for the great tribulation but for the Great Translation. I am not looking for the King to come and set up His kingdom on earth but I am looking for the Lord Jesus Christ to come from heaven to take us up to heaven to receive our rewards.
INCREDIBLE SEARCH FOR POWER
It would be about 1908 when I commenced attending prayer meetings held in the home of Brother Dan Parsley, who was also a member of Star Hall. The prayer meetings were held every Friday and I understood it was one of many organised throughout the country by Mrs. Penn Lewis to pray for revival. Unfortunately Mrs. Penn Lewis and her organisers rejected and condemned the revival when it came, because it was accompanied by speaking in tongues and mighty signs, wonders and miraculous healings and even to this day (1970) there are many religious leaders who do not recognise this great world-wide Pentecostal revival as God’s revival. The Friday night prayer meetings were terrific. I had never been in such prayer meetings. They were charged with the power of God. I was longing, at that time for a life of continual unbroken fellowship with the Lord and a greater life of power in service as revealed in the Acts of the Apostles. I remember going down to the old fashioned altar at one of Star Hall Easter Conventions and claiming the “Second Blessing”. Some called it “The Cleansing Baptism”, other preachers called it “Entire Sanctification” and still others called it the “Baptism of Fire”. The Lord certainly blessed me but ultimately I became very dissatisfied. One year I went with a friend to the great Keswick Convention, held in the Lake District; and, I remember responding to the appeal when it was made. I was instructed to take by faith the Gift of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures given me were “If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him” and the other Scripture was this “If we ask anything according to His will. He heareth us and if He hears us then we know we have the petitions desired of Him”. I believed and received the Holy Spirit by faith. The Lord certainly blessed me for my obedience but sometime after I realised that the power of God, known by the servants of Christ as revealed in the Acts of the Apostles, was not being shown in my life and in my preaching. Our first contact with the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit was in 1909 when we met a Missionary from India at the Star Hall Easter Convention. He was going to Sweden on furlough. We had a private conversation with him and he told us how, in passing through America he attended meetings where he witnessed scenes similar to those recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. Many people were speaking in tongues and mighty miracles of healing were witnessed. We were thrilled and felt sure this was the revival for which we had been praying so long. From that time we started seeking this amazing power. We knew the mighty signs, wonders and miracles recorded in the Acts of the Apostles were the acts of the Holy Ghost but we had no idea how we could know we had this power or how to obtain this power, so we continued praying more than ever.
The news of the Pentecostal revival which was sweeping America soon reached Europe and the leaders of Star Hall heard we were praying much that this revival would come our way, and they became very antagonistic. The Evangelist, Rev. John Thomas, who had been a great blessing to me and for whom I had great admiration, had a personal talk with me and definitely told me I was in danger of being side-tracked by the devil. I would then be about twenty three years of age, and coming from such a well-known Evangelist this warning shook me, however, we pressed on but had to leave Star Hall, owing to increasing opposition. We heard that a few Plymouth Brethren were seeking the Pentecostal blessing so we joined them and commenced attending Stanley Hall, Longsight, Manchester. Then we heard that a preacher named Rev. T. B. Barrett from Norway was holding meetings in All Saints Church Hall, Sunderland. Apparently Rev. A. A. Boddy (the Vicar) had invited him to come, having heard of the Pentecostal Revival Meetings which were taking place in Norway through the Ministry of Pastor Barrett. The latter had recently returned from America, where he received the Pentecostal Baptism with speaking in tongues; this was how it was described in those days.
Donald Gee supplied more details of John Nelson Parr’s baptism in the Holy Spirit in his book Wind and Flame (Nottingham: Assemblies of God Publishing House, 1967), page 65:
INCREDIBLE PENTECOSTAL REVIVAL
The Rev. A. A. Boddy planned a great Whitsuntide Convention at All Saints, Sunderland, and the chief speaker was Rev. T. B. Barrett. We decided to send Brother Dan Parsley to this convention and bring back a report. He came back and told us it was just like the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus was gloriously magnified, many were speaking in other tongues, many miracles of healing were seen in the name of Jesus and he definitely said “this revival is from God”. After his report we became very desperate and we decided to hold a Christmas Convention in Stanley Hall, Longsight. We invited two or three from Kilsyth and Preston who had been Baptised in the Spirit and spoken in tongues. Many people had been to Sunderland and the Pentecostal Revival had spread to Preston, Lytham, Kilsyth, Blackburn, London and other places.
During the convention one of the speakers said to me as I knelt seeking the Lord in prayer “Have you been Baptised in the Spirit?” I replied “Yes” (for I sincerely believed I had been baptised in the Holy Ghost). Then he said “What are you seeking?” and I replied “A greater fullness of the Holy Spirit”. He replied “Did you speak in tongues, when you were Baptised in the Spirit?” I said “No”; then he replied “You have never been baptised in the Spirit”. From that moment I sought the Lord earnestly for the Baptism in the Spirit. On Christmas day morning, Sunday, December 25th, 1910, a young man was Baptised in the Spirit and spoke in tongues. It was at the end of the breaking of bread service, when I heard someone speaking in a strange language. I opened my eyes and looked at him. His face was wonderfully radiant and he kept moving his hands as though he was holding a conversation with someone and talking to them in a strange language. I did not like noisy people and I thought it was wonderful to be Baptised in the Spirit in that way. At the night meeting on Christmas day 1910 I was sitting at the back of the hall, feeling I had come to the end of myself. Prayer meetings were held every night for three weeks prior to the Christmas Convention and I had been to every prayer meeting and had not yet been Baptised in the Spirit. I was sitting down in the attitude of prayer right at the back of the hall, and I was singing to myself very quietly, and meaning every word “gentle Jesus meek and mild. look upon a little child; pity my simplicity, suffer me to come to Thee”. That verse fully expressed my feelings. When I came to the end of the verse, the Spirit of God fell on me in mighty power, shaking me from head to foot; I gripped the heavy pine form in front of me to try and stop the shaking but then the form commenced shaking so I took my hands off it. In a few moments I bellowed out speaking in other tongues. After speaking a few sentences in other tongues, then I spoke in English; this apparently being the interpretation of the message and this continued for about four hours until about 2 a.m. We knew nothing about the gift of interpretation but that night the Spirit of God operated that gift through me for about four hours. After this experience I understood what it meant in Acts chapter four, verse 31 where it says “When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together”. Nearly all the messages given that night by tongues and interpretation were about the imminence of the second coming of the Lord Jesus.
The Bible says “He that prophesieth edifieth the church” but the same verse also reads “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself” 1 Cor. 14:4. This passage explains why Paul wrote “I thank God I speak with tongues more than ye all” 1 Cor. 14:8 and his statement in verse 19 does not abrogate his thanks to God because he was able to worship and praise the God of heaven profusely in other tongues. It was sixty years on December 25th, 1970 since the Lord Baptised me in the Spirit, just as He did the hundred and twenty on the day of Pentecost and during that period it has been my joy to praise the Lord in other tongues every day and also sing in other tongues and I have discovered that this is a source of tremendous edification.
After the fire fell in Stanley Hall, Longsight, Manchester; at the Christmas Convention 1910, people were continually getting saved and immediately Baptised in the Spirit. Reports of the meetings spread like wildfire throughout the city. Many ministers condemned this Pentecostal Revival from their pulpits, and one famous minister wrote a book “Speaking in Tongues. Is it from Above or Below”. One minister publicly said the work was the work of the devil, however, the Lord soon put his hand on him and that man’s ministry dried up. One of the evidences that this glorious Pentecostal Revival was God’s Revival was that Jesus had become ten thousand times more wonderful than He was before we were Baptised in the Spirit. We visited every house in the Longsight district talking about Jesus and winning souls for Christ. We kept the Baptistery open and filled with water, so that those who accepted the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour, could be baptised as soon as possible and then we laid hands on them and they were filled with the Holy Ghost and spoke in other tongues, many were healed and mighty miracles were wrought in the name of the Lord Jesus. We had meetings every night and they were crowded. From 1910 until 1914 revival fire was burning with glorious intensity in our midst and the leaders of many Christian movements were continually writing articles and books condemning what they called “The Tongues Movement”. The more these people condemned, criticised, ostracised and persecuted us the more the Pentecostal Revival Fire spread and from 1908 to 1914 groups of Pentecostal Christians were gathered together all over the British Isles and Northern Ireland. The raging venomous opposition of our enemies could not extinguish the fires of 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.
AN INCREDIBLE BURDEN
In 1923 a great burden came upon me to do something to unite these independent Pentecostal meetings seeing, apart from the lack of consideration received by our Pastors and Leaders at the conscientious objectors tribunals during World War One, and also the brutal treatment some of them received in prison, havoc was being caused by false teachers and others who persisted in fanatical practices. It will, therefore, be seen that three dominating factors moved me to try and unite all the independent Pentecostal meetings into one fellowship or union i.e. 1. The disgraceful treatment meted out to our Pastors and Leaders by the tribunals and prison officers; 2. The havoc being created by the teachers of universalism and 3. The divisions caused by the erroneous teaching and fanatical practice of the prophetic gift. The two greatest errors which were creating divisions and trouble were “universalism”, and the abuse of the prophetic gift. Nearly all messages given by the prophet were accepted as the word of God or Divine direction. The following scripture was either ignored or explained away “Let the prophets speak two or three and let the other judge”, 1 Cor. 14:29. The people who abused the gift of prophesy also condoned a practice which was called “Consulting the Prophet”, and many people went to the recognised prophet seeking to know the will of God on business affairs, domestic and matrimonial matters. Those who propagated these errors were creeping into the independent Pentecostal meetings and created discord and division; then again, although it was not mentioned in the first circular, it seemed to me our official constitution must include a clause setting forth our views on war so that we should have some standing in the eyes of the government authorities should another war break out.
I discussed the situation with several leaders and Pastors and they agreed that something should be done to bring about a union or fellowship of the Independent Pentecostal Assemblies. A previous attempt had been made by certain brethren to bring them into a united fellowship but this had failed, so I decided to move very cautiously and prayed very much for heavenly wisdom.
About 1922 Pastor Archie Cooper of South Africa visited this country and as it was not possible for me, owing to business demands, to go round the country, I asked him to test the feelings of the Pastors and leaders of the Independent Pentecostal Assemblies towards a united fellowship. He came to see me before returning to South Africa and his report was very favourable.
My first letter enclosing a copy of my proposals for creating a United Fellowship was sent out to a chosen small number of Pastors on November 23rd, 1923, and twelve well-known Pastors gave me permission to append their signatures to my proposed circular (see Appendix A for copies of Circulars “A” & “B”). The next step was to send Circular “B” to about ninety independent Pentecostal meetings. About this time I suggested to Mr. Tom Myerscough, who was Pastor of the Preston Assembly, that he should now handle the matter, seeing he was an older Christian and far more experienced than myself, however, he thought I should go ahead with all the arrangements and he would give me his whole-hearted support, and I wish to pay tribute to the help received from our departed brother. A meeting of the signatories to Circular “B” was called and this was held in Birmingham on February 1st, 1924.
It seemed to me it would be a good plan to bring before these brethren a rough draft of the proposed constitution before bringing it before a united conference (see Appendix “B”). “The Proposals” referred to in circular “Appendix B” refers to the constitution. When sending a copy of the proposed constitution to the twelve signatories of the first Circular my letter made it clear to them that I accepted sole responsibility for this draft of our first constitution and requested them to bring any amendments or alterations to the meeting. The constitution and statement of fundamental truths was amended and finally after much prayer for divine guidance, it was, with great praise and thanks to our God, finally approved at the Birmingham meeting held on February 1st, 1924.
It was decided to send a copy of the Constitution and the Statement of Fundamental Truths to all the Independent Pentecostal churches who had replied favourably to our first Circular. This was sent out in February 1924 and attached to this Circular was a Form including Application “A” to be filled up by those meetings which decided to apply for recognition as an Assembly of God and Application “B” to be filled up by those who desired further information before applying for recognition as an Assembly of God (see Appendix “C”).
AN INCREDIBLE ACCOMPLISHMENT
Thirty-four meetings decided to become Assemblies of God and also the South Wales Assemblies unanimously accepted the Statement of Fundamentals and the Constitution. This made a total of about 70 Assemblies of God and it was with great joy that a Circular was sent to all these assemblies on March 28th, 1924, expressing great thanksgiving because the Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland was now an accomplished fact (see Appendix “D”). It was decided to arrange the first General United Conference for May 8th–9th, 1924. And I requested the First Presbyters to favour me with nominations for the First Executive Presbytery.
At this First General Presbytery Conference the Statement of Fundamental Truths and the Constitution was corrected, amended and finally approved. It was also agreed to publish an official magazine quarterly and call it “Redemption Tidings”; it was also decided to hold our First United Assemblies of God Convention in Peniel Chapel, London (kindly loaned to us) on August 24th, 1924. There was a tremendous outpouring of the Holy Ghost upon this Convention and scores of people were Baptised in the Spirit and spoke in tongues. Our Second Annual Convention was held in Kingsway Hall, London, Whitsuntide, 1925, and amazing scenes of Pentecostal power and blessing were seen every Whitsuntide in Kingsway Hall, London for many years.
It was my privilege to be the Chairman Secretary of the newly formed Assemblies of God and Editor of “Redemption Tidings” for ten years. At a later date a very live weekly paper called “Redemption Tidings Ambassador” was published.
The members of the First Assemblies of God Executive Presbytery were the following Brethren: Howard Carter, T. L. Hicks (representing about forty Welsh Assemblies), T. Myerscough, J. Nelson Parr (Chairman Secretary), H. Webster and F. Watson. The first meeting of the Executive Presbytery was held on March 7th, 1925. The Executive Presbytery did their very utmost to bring about a Scriptural unity with the Elim Movement but unfortunately all our efforts did not accomplish anything positive.
The years 1920 to 1940 appeared to be decades of phenomenal Pentecostal revival and supernatural visitation. The campaigns conducted by Pastor George Jeffreys and Pastor Stephen Jeffreys were absolutely indescribable. I remember visiting one crusade being conducted by Pastor Stephen Jeffreys and found people queuing up in the afternoon for the meeting to be held the evening of the following day, in other words they queued up for one night and a whole day in order to be sure of securing a seat. About 1925 Pastor Stephen Jeffreys commenced conducting revival and divine healing campaigns in association with Assembles of God and tremendous scenes of Holy Ghost revival with signs, wonders and miracles were witnessed all over the country and some of the greatest Pentecostal churches were established as a result of these campaigns. After about ten years of very hard work, toil and much labour the Manchester Pentecostal Assembly would have a membership of forty-five, and 1927 appeared to be a favourable time to launch a great Revival and Divine Healing Campaign in Manchester with Pastor Stephen Jeffreys as the Revivalist. This would mean spending every penny we had in hand and a few objected to this, however, feeling very strongly it was God’s time I stepped out and trusted the Lord to supply our needs and deal with the opposition.
AN INCREDIBLE CAMPAIGN
The Levenshulme Town Hall was booked for the campaign and dismal prophets said “Levenshulme was the worst district in Manchester” for a campaign; but nothing daunted we distributed thousands of handbills to houses, outside cinemas and at football matches, notwithstanding the arctic weather we were having at that time, December 1927. The campaign commenced Boxing Day, December 26th, 1927. The first ten days were hopeless. The Town Hall seated about six hundred and there would only be about fifty people in this large hall, however, God broke through after two weeks. One or two most amazing miracles took place and then the crowds started coming. It was wonderful and thrilling to see the Lord honouring the Ministry of Pastor Stephen Jeffreys and also honouring our faith. The last week of the campaign in the Levenshulme Town Hall was a tremendous week of real Holy Ghost revival. The meetings were crowded and miracles were taking place every night and many people were accepting the Lord Jesus as their Saviour. Towards the end of the last week we could not get the crowds into the hall.
Pastor Stephen Jeffreys very rarely preached on Divine Healing, signs and wonders but he would in some meetings get someone who had been supernaturally healed to give their testimony. Dynamic power was upon his preaching and he preached the Gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven and people were under terrifying conviction of sin. When they came into the enquiry rooms they knew they were turning their backs on sin, Hell, the world, the flesh and the devil. There is no doubt in my mind that Pastor Stephen Jeffreys poured out his life, strength, vitality and all he had in turning thousands from the grip of sin, unbelief and the devil unto the Saviour of the world.
I remember saying to Pastor Stephen Jeffreys: “Who shall we get to carry on this work after the Campaign?” He looked at me and said, “You are the man”, and then he asked me to preach one night during that week and God wonderfully blessed the message.
That was the time when I made a terrific decision and decided to quit business and devote everything I had to the salvation of lost souls, including my business ability, talents, strength, time and devotion.
What a wonderful wife the Lord had given me. She never faltered for one moment and never shunned facing the future life of faith in God. She never raised one single objection against my action in renouncing a wonderful business position to become a full time Pastor-Evangelist. After making this terrific decision I met a gentleman who was a director of a very large firm and after learning I had just resigned my position, offered me a post which had just become vacant. The stipend and other emoluments offered me were fantastic! However, the Lord gave me grace to resist the temptation to be diverted from the path of sacrifice and Soul winning.
We continued in the Levenshulme Town Hall for about nine months in 1928, holding meetings all day Sunday and twice during the week, and the cost was about £15 per week. During that period my stipend was very small, however, the Lord was very gracious to us and met all our needs in a wonderful manner. The meetings continued the same in character as when Pastor Stephen Jeffreys was there. God blessed this plan and His blessing was on all the meetings. Every meeting was a Revival Meeting and the sick were prayed for nightly; Souls were continually being saved and mighty miracles were being witnessed. All our advertising and publicity bore the headline “The Stephen Jeffreys Campaign continues in the Levenshulme Town Hall. Preacher Pastor J. Nelson Parr”. We had no ante-rooms at the Town Hall and did not have any waiting meetings for the Baptism in the Spirit. At times when preaching I would use the phrase “The Baptism in the Spirit” or “The Spirit Filled Life”. Several people asked me, “What is this ‘Baptism in the Spirit’ you have mentioned?” At last I said, “If you will find a room in the district, we will have special meetings for all who are interested in the Baptism in the Spirit.” They soon found a suitable room and a meeting was arranged.
On the night in question the place was crowded to its utmost capacity. I gave them a short talk on the Baptism in the Spirit, reading to them all the passages in the Acts of the Apostles where this subject is mentioned; then I threw the meeting open for questions. There was only one question and a lady said, “Do you mean to say that all who are Baptised in the Spirit will speak in tongues?” I said, “Tonight I have read the accounts in the Acts of the Apostles of all who were Baptised in the Spirit and in all except one instance it says they spake with tongues and it is quite evident that in Acts Chapter Eight, they immediately saw something extraordinary happen, so much so, Simon wanted to buy the power of being able to impart the Holy Spirit to people; and we can only come to the conclusion that these people spake in tongues as they did in Jerusalem, Caesarea and Ephesus”. She replied, “Well, I don’t believe that”. I said, “Perhaps we had better not discuss that point but we will get before the Lord in prayer. The room was crowded and soon I heard a lady speaking in tongues. I knew I was the only person there who did speak in tongues so stood up and looked round; to my great astonishment it was the lady who didn’t believe that all who were Baptised in the Spirit would speak in tongues. That was the beginning of a mighty outpouring of the Spirit. From that time hundreds and maybe thousands have been Baptised in the Spirit in Manchester. The Lord be Magnified. I could not tell you how many were Baptised in the Spirit at that first waiting meeting. The Spirit of God just fell upon the people, and from that time the meetings were absolutely indescribable.
We could not continue indefinitely in the Town Hall so I commenced to pray for a building. I went to enquire about two or three empty churches, but they would not let us have them. Many of the churches in Manchester had warned their people against us. One famous church warned their students that if any of them attended the Pentecostal meetings they would be instantly dismissed. The more we were ostracised, condemned and victimised the more the Lord poured out Revival Power and Blessing. One night a Brother gave me an envelope and said, “That is toward building a church”; it contained a five pound note. I had not mentioned the need of buying or building a church. This came to me as a token from the Lord that we should erect a building so I went round Longsight and Levenshulme looking for a plot of land. One day I saw the land in Crowcroft Road, made enquiries and discovered the owner. We fixed the price and I gave him the five pounds as a deposit. The announcement of this purchase stirred up much enthusiasm among the people and from that day we had a glorious epidemic of gifts of five pounds for the new church.
We had a man in the congregation who claimed to be a builder and after the plans had been passed he took charge of operations and very soon we were in a hopeless state of chaos, fortunately Mr. W. Finch, of Parbold, came to our rescue. He brought a few of his own employees, joiners and bricklayers, and they very quickly lifted us from confusion and chaos and soon the first Bethshan Tabernacle was ready. The building did not possess the slightest evidence of architectural beauty.
The Stephen Jeffreys campaign finished in the Levenshulme Town Hall January, 1928, and our first meeting was held in Bethshan Tabernacle on November 7th, 1928. The Foundation Stones were laid on June 23rd, 1928 by Mr. William Finch and the late Mr. T. Myerscough of Preston and it was officially opened on December 8th, 1928, by Alderman Dearden. the Mayor of Rochdale. The official opening was a great day. We had a great procession from the Levenshulme Town Hall to Crowcroft Road and the procession was led by the Mayoral car.
Although the first Bethshan was not a monument of architectural beauty, the atmosphere was charged with Holy Ghost power and the supernatural power of God filled every meeting. The first year in the building we baptised in water over three hundred believers. Sinners were continually coming to the Saviour and during the first four years over one thousand were baptised in water and hundreds of these people were Baptised in the Spirit just as they were in the Acts of the Apostles; the Lord also confirmed His word with mighty signs, wonders and miracles. All the miracles recorded in the Acts of the Apostles (except raising the dead) were repeated in our midst. How well I remember the night when a lady was carried into the Tabernacle by four men. She had not walked for eighteen years and was paralysed from her neck to her feet but after prayer in the Name of our Risen and Exalted Saviour, she walked round the Tabernacle. I never saw men more astonished than when those men came to carry her back into the taxi and found she was walking. Many with incurable diseases were healed and soon the first Bethshan was packed to suffocation and we had to get plans and estimates for an extension. This time, having learned a bitter lesson, we placed the contract with a reliable firm of builders. The extension included classrooms for our growing Sunday school. The cost of the extension was £1,750 and our people gave so liberally we were able to pay for it before Evangelist Smith Wigglesworth came to open it on November 7th, 1931. The first Bethshan was not only extended but we had the external appearance considerably improved.
During these years from 1924 my work became very strenuous seeing I was Chairman-Secretary of Assemblies of God, Editor of “Redemption Tidings” and “The Weekly Ambassador” also full-time Pastor of Bethshan Tabernacle, however, the Lord was very gracious and gave me exceptional strength and ability. It was also my joy to conduct a campaign at Gaskell Hall, Stockport. Each night the place was crowded to its utmost capacity. Many people were saved and great signs, wonders and miracles followed the preaching of the Gospel. This campaign resulted in an Assembly of God being opened at Stockport.
The decade from 1928 to 1938 was a time of fantastic revival, blessing, conversions and signs, wonders and miracles. One would have to write another book in order to give a full account of all the mighty signs, wonders, miracles and healings which were manifest during the period from 1928 to 1958. The Power of God was in our midst and the very atmosphere was charged with the presence of God. Hardly a meeting was held without decisions for Christ being made. People were healed as they sat listening to the Word of God and others were Baptised in the Spirit in their seats. The Lord Jesus was glorified and even our enemies were confounded. Once again on Sunday nights Bethshan Tabernacle was packed to its utmost capacity. Fortunately I had purchased the land adjoining the Tabernacle. One day I heard the land had been sold to a motor engineer for a garage to be erected. After making enquiries I went to see the owner of the land. I made two discoveries… 1. The land had not been sold but a firm had made enquiries about it. 2. He was prepared to sell the land to us if we paid a deposit at once. The Tabernacle was not in a position to buy the land as we had a first and second mortgage still outstanding on the first building, however, I managed to find the money and bought the land in my name but later sold it to the Tabernacle at the same price I had paid for it.
When the war started in 1939 we had plans being prepared for the erection of a new Tabernacle to seat about 1,500.
One could not expect this decade of continual revival and supernatural blessing to continue without Satanic disturbances, tribulations and trials, in fact, it has been said that the Acts of the Apostles is a record of revivals and rows. The Lord gave us wisdom and power to overcome all the attacks of the enemy and He brought us through more than conquerors.
About 1931 I was confronted with a proposal which would result in our moving to London and centralising all the Assemblies of God work in that city. Two main factors compelled me to reject the proposals. 1. It would mean all the Assemblies of God having a centralised headquarters in London; and, in my opinion, this was absolutely unscriptural and a move of this description would have an adverse effect on the assemblies in the North; and 2. Bethshan Tabernacle was in the throes of revival and I was convinced it would be disastrous for me to leave Manchester.
About 1932 the Lord laid His mighty hand upon Brother Fred Squire and commenced to use him mightily. Thousands were brought to know Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, Mighty signs, wonders and miracles followed the preaching of the Gospel and full Gospel churches were formed in Northampton, Wellingborough, Kettering, Nuneaton, Ashton, Fleetwood and many other towns. At this time the Assemblies of God were, in my opinion in need of a successor to Pastor Stephen Jeffreys and I was sure Pastor Fred Squire was God’s man for that work and after ascertaining his willingness to work with us the proposal was brought before the executive. They rejected my proposition because he used the title “Pastor” and also wore clerical attire. Seeing we had officially sponsored Pastor Stephen Jeffreys this decision was as far as I could see very inconsistent and it created, in my view, a very tragic and unfortunate situation.
Perhaps the most trying period of all was in 1933, two years after we had opened the extension. All the members of the Assemblies of God executive made the most scandalous and infamous accusation against my character and this resulted in my resignation from all the offices held by me in Assemblies of God. My reason for resigning was this: If all the members of the Executive Board believed the accusations they made against my character were true, then I could no longer expect them to put their confidence in me as Chairman-Secretary and Editor and I had no alternative but to resign. This must have been one of the most frightful and blackest experiences of my Christian life. I was tempted to put the matter in the hands of my solicitors and sue them for defamation of character, however one day the Lord spoke to me and said “Why do ye not rather take wrong” 1 Cor. 6:7. And “He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light and thy judgement as the noonday”. Psalm 37:6.
About four years after that day the instigator of those charges came to see me and said he had made a terrible blunder in making the infamous accusation against my character and asked me to forgive him. All the members of the Executive of Assemblies of God also sent letters withdrawing their accusations against me. His admission of this serious false accusation and request for forgiveness did not rectify the serious blow their action had given to the Assemblies of God. Looking back I can see how the Lord repeated in my life the experience of Joseph. His brothers treated him shamefully, nevertheless, he could at a later date say unto them “Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good”. Gen 50:20.
After resigning all my offices with Assemblies of God, it was possible for me to devote all my time, vitality, strength and God-given abilities to the work at Bethshan Tabernacle. About this time all the Bethshan Trustees resigned leaving me alone to bear the amount owing on the first Bethshan building including a first and second mortgage. They did not know I was able to obtain a mortgage on my own house in Broadstone Road to meet any demands made upon us. From 1934 until 1964 the work was continually growing and ultimately expanded beyond our wildest dreams. Notwithstanding a slump and widespread unemployment, our offerings continually increased. About this time we received a small legacy from one of our members and with this and other gifts we erected a portable building at the rear of the Tabernacle to provide accommodation for our ever-increasing Sunday school.
INCREDIBLE BETHSHAN REVIVAL SCENES
The Lord continued to fan the flame of revival into a mighty blaze. Sinners were coming to the Saviour in nearly every meeting, many were being Baptised in the Spirit and mighty signs, wonders and healings continued to follow the preaching of the Gospel. The sick were prayed for and sinners were invited to come to the Saviour in every meeting. By 1964 our offerings had reached the fantastic total of £11,966 per annum.
It would take a long time to give an account of all the miracles wrought by the Lord during those days. A young lady with one leg nearly eleven inches shorter than the other, and wearing a boot with a large cork sole and heel, was healed. After prayer her leg commenced to extend and after a few weeks it was as long as the other. “This was surely done by the mighty power of our risen Lord”. A young lady dying of Tubercular Meningitis was miraculously healed. A man who had an accident and injured his spine, sending him blind in one eye and losing the sight of the other eye coupled with continual pain in his spine, was instantly healed and his sight, after test, was pronounced perfect. A woman, paralysed from the neck downwards and had not walked for eighteen years was carried into the Tabernacle by four men, after she was prayed for in the name of our Risen Lord. in a few minutes, she was walking round the church. Seeing she had not walked for eighteen years this was a stupendous miracle.
Many people were healed including Bleeding Cancer, Blindness, Chronic Bronchial Asthma, Gall Stones, Arthritis, Skin Diseases, Duodenal Ulcer, T.B. and other diseases.
The Annual Members Tea and Old Fashioned Love Feast with a two or three-tier love cake, with hundreds sitting down to tea, was a very memorable event.
By 1938 the Tabernacle including the extension and the annex were packed to suffocation and plans were being prepared for a new Tabernacle to seat about 1,500 people but unfortunately World War Two started and this put an end to our plans. Many young men and young women joined the Forces, Civil Defence, First Aid, and many were working on farms and also working overtime and weekends. The attendances were seriously affected but notwithstanding air raids, blitzes and other inconveniences, we did not cancel one meeting. We claimed the promise in Psalm 91 continually and publicly. The Tabernacle was marvellously preserved and not one of our members was injured in any of the air raids. In 1934 our first missionary, Mr. Raymond Colley, sailed for Tibet; then in 1946 we had the joy of sending Miss Joan Rhodes (a fully qualified nurse) to Congo. It was my firm conviction that a Pentecostal church should be a Missionary church and ultimately our Missionary offerings reached £3,000 per annum and we were supporting nine Missionaries sent from Bethshan and also twenty-nine native Evangelists. Ultimately we were receiving about £5,000 per annum for the support of our own Missionaries, native Evangelists and Radio Evangelism in the Far East. David said: “I esteem thy precepts concerning all things to be right”. Ps. 119:128. And I have found in giving loyal, spirit filled workers to the uttermost parts of the earth and in giving of our money for the propagation of the Gospel to those have not heard. God in His abounding liberality has given to us.
In 1934 the Pastor was invited to visit White Russia and Volhynia to give Bible lectures on the Acts of the Apostles to Russian, Polish and German Missionaries labouring for Christ in that part of Europe. Shortly after my arrival in White Russia I became very sick and instead of lecturing to the Missionaries I lay prostrate in bed. I am not a visionary, but one morning about 11 a.m. I saw the Lord. He came and laid His hand on me and immediately I was perfectly healed. The same afternoon I commenced my lectures on the Acts of the Apostles. The Lord be magnified.
The meetings in White Russia and Poland were throbbing with Revival Power and it was thrilling to lecture to about one hundred Russian, Polish and German Missionaries. One day we had a Baptismal Service in a river and we marched to the river led by a Russian Christian brass band. At the close of one meeting Brother A. Bergholz said to me: “Tonight we have caught a whale”. I discovered the “whale” was the headmistress of the local Day School who had accepted the Lord Jesus as her personal Saviour.
On my return journey I travelled through Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland to Sweden and Norway. It was my desire to visit the great work at Philadelphia Tabernacle, Stockholm, Sweden; the largest Pentecostal church in Europe; and learn what methods had been adopted by Pastor Lewi Pethrus, to build up this great work and some of these methods were put into operation at Bethshan Tabernacle. “Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight”. Ps. 144:1. Many rimes have I brought this verse before the Lord and asked Him to show me how to fight the devil, principalities and evil spirits, ungodliness, unbelief and all the diabolical things and powers which are rushing young and old to hell. Over and over again have I asked the Lord to teach me and make me like David an invincible warrior and conqueror. The Lord has taken me at my word and many times shown me plans for conquest, which in the eyes of others were mad and ridiculous. Many of these people have forgotten that the plans given to Gideon for conquering the Midianites were ridiculous to the humanly trained warriors, but it worked and the Midianites were confounded and defeated.
We started an orchestra and immediately there were shouts of horror and indignation, however, the orchestra proved a great blessing, put ziperation into the singing and helped us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. The drummer had been playing in a dance band. He accepted the Saviour and consecrated his drums for the Lord’s service.
We organised a battalion of Gospel tract distributors and they are continually distributing Gospel tracts to houses, shops and elsewhere within a two mile radius of the Tabernacle. In 1935 they distributed 112,000 tracts, the majority having been distributed door to door, and many of these flame of fire soul winners are still carrying on this great work. They distribute between 80,000 to 100,000 tracts annually.
We were invited to join a United Procession of Witness of all the Churches, Chapels and Missions in the district. We gladly co-operated and one of our members, the late Councillor J. H. Meachin, J.P., decided to present the Tabernacle with a banner and requested me to submit one or two designs. The firm who made the banner produced one of the most gorgeous banners ever carried through the streets of Manchester. It is a masterpiece of first class craftsmanship, and we are greatly indebted to our Brother for leaving behind a fitting reminder of his interest in the work of God at Bethshan. Four very beautiful bannerettes in blue and gold are also carried in the procession, bearing the words: “Jesus Saves From Sin”, “Jesus Heals The Sick”. “Jesus Baptises in the Spirit”, “Jesus is Coming Again”. Unfortunately certain Ministers objected to Bethshan taking part in the United Procession, others did not agree with this objection and that was the end of united processions. After taking part in one United Procession Bethshan Tabernacle continued holding a Procession of Witness every year, followed by an Open Air Service in Crowcroft Park. God has mightily blessed the March of Witness and the Open Air Service and many have found the Saviour. One unique feature of the Procession of Witness is the pre-eminence and prominence given to the word of God. A large copy of the Bible is carried on a Bible Carrier and is borne on the shoulders of four young people at the head of the procession. We were never informed why certain Churches objected to our presence in the United Procession, however, the Lord has certainly sent His Blessing upon our own March of Witness to the Full Gospel.
THE INCREDIBLE “Y.E.S.”
After World War Two started we were confronted with many difficulties. Nearly every factory was working overtime and weekends including Sundays, this made it very difficult to get the unsaved into the meetings. After praying much about this situation a great burden came upon me for the multitudes of boys, girls and teenagers who did not attend any Sunday School and never heard the Gospel; and in 1941 the “Y.E.S.” (“Youth Evangelistic Society”) was born. In six years we had opened in districts surrounding the Tabernacle, six “Y.E.S.” youth centres and branch Sunday Schools. The Lord was certainly teaching my hands to war.
Easter Sunday 1942 was a great day. Through the kindness of Mr. Prince Littler of Messrs. Stoll Theatres, London, we were allowed to hire at a very low charge the Manchester Hippodrome (seating capacity 2,400) for our first Youth Festival. At a later date the Youth Festival was held every Whit Sunday. We were subject to a tremendous volume of abuse and condemnation for starting the “Y.E.S.” and holding a Youth Festival in a theatre. Most of the criticism came from other Pastors, however, being definitely certain of the Will of God we forged ahead and held the Festival every year until the Manchester Hippodrome was demolished. The Lord mightily honoured our faith and obedience and hundreds of young people were brought to the Lord Jesus at our Festivals, Youth Centres and Branch Sunday Schools.
The Blessing of God was poured out abundantly upon the work of the “Y.E.S.” The Lord gave us a most magnificent band of leaders and workers, all of whom had caught the vision of boys and Girls for Christ. One of our leaders asked the Lord to teach him how to become a ventriloquist and ultimately he was preaching the Gospel through his doll “Timothy” and had the joy of bringing hundreds of boys and girls to Christ. Our battle cry was “Get them Saved and Baptized in the Spirit before they are fifteen”, and most of our “Y.E.S.” leaders made this their goal. We had also Puppets, Youth Orchestra, Youth Instrumentalists, Youth Accordionists, Youth Choir, Youth Soloists, Youth Singspiration Sextette, The Gospel Four, Tambourine Band and the “Outreachers”. “Y.E.S.” Crusades were held in nearly all the public halls surrounding the City of Manchester and all our “Y.E.S.” Youth Groups were used in these Crusades and our “Y.E.S.” Youth were thrilled to be given opportunity to work for the salvation of thousands of boys and girls for Christ. In 1943 we held our first Camp and every year since that date we have taken over one hundred boys and girls to camp for one week. The Camp meetings have been times of great blessing and scores of boys and girls have been saved and Baptized in the Spirit. It was my firm conviction that we must get boys and girls saved and Baptized in the Spirit before they were fifteen. Experience had shown me that within a short time of going to work they would be polluted and defiled and only a real experience of salvation and the mighty power of the Spirit would enable them to stand against the wiles of the devil. One of our battle cries was “One thousands boys and girls for Christ”, and ultimately we had over 1,100 young people under the age of thirty-five at Bethshan and in our “Y.E.S.” Centres.
We diligently sought the Lord to show us how to win the boys, girls, and teenagers for Christ; and the Lord who showed David how to win battles put into our hearts all kinds of ways, means and methods for filling the Hippodrome Theatre and the public halls with great crowds of boys, girls and teenagers. All our advertising, handbills and leaflets omitted the word “Religion” or anything which would give the people the impression our Festivals, Rallies and Crusades were religious. I had come to realise that young people and the people generally did not wish to have anything to do with religion and to them religion had no attraction whatever. The results proved we were correct in adopting this attitude. The outstanding feature of the work of God at Bethshan Tabernacle during World War Two was our work among the young people. We opened branch Sunday Schools, Youth Centres and Youth Clubs in various districts. Each branch centre found work for about ten or twelve young people and their work for Christ among the boys and girls helped to maintain a flame of fire love for lost souls in their own hearts, then again, one of the outstanding features of these days was the Spirit of prayer which moved in our midst. Sometimes there would be four or five prayer meetings every week. Often after the young people’s meeting on Tuesday night the young people would gather on their own initiative in one of the ante-rooms called “Carmel” for prayer, there would be an all night of prayer monthly on the first Saturday night in each month; we would also have a day of prayer and fasting. From 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. groups of people would be praying continually in certain ante-rooms. This meant that without cessation, during the whole of the day a volume of prayer was continually rising to the God of Heaven for revival and the salvation of lost sinners. The revival atmosphere filled every meeting and not a week passed without sinners being saved and miracles of healing being seen, believers were also continually being Baptized in the Spirit.
Bethshan Tabernacle and its members have been instrumental in opening twelve Pentecostal Churches in the Manchester district. (In 1920 Bethshan was the only Pentecostal Church in Manchester and district.) This means we have proved the Lord to be faithful to His promise for as we have given the message and the blessing to others so the Lord continued to give us good measure, pressed down and running over revival at the Tabernacle.
The work among the young people made terrific progress. Amazing opportunities were given them for practical training in preaching and working for Christ at our branch Sunday Schools, “Y.E.S.” Centres and Open Air Meetings; and other fields of service. It was laid on my heart to give them Bible training and so I started the “B.B.C.” i.e. Bethshan Bible College. This was held every Saturday at 6 p.m. before the Saturday Evening Service. I gave them lectures on all the fundamental truths of the Christian faith and also many other subjects. Ultimately over thirty-two of our young people went into full-time Ministry, Evangelism and Missionary work. Many of them have told me what a wonderful help those lectures have been to them. Many of our young people are today (1970) found in many countries of the world, including Africa, New Guinea, Malawi, Formosa, South Africa, Rhodesia, Australia, Congo and in many towns and cities of Britain. One, who is now the Pastor of an English Assembly told me recently, if it had not been for eleven years training as a “Y.E.S.” leader he would never have been able to retain his position as a Pastor.
All our young people, who are now labouring as Pastors, Evangelists and Missionaries were trained at Bethshan Tabernacle where they received Bible and practical training in addition to the fields of practical training already mentioned; every Summer a number of our young people spent a week of their holidays on “Trek”, in other words, they would visit Assemblies in many parts of Britain and spend just over one week winning souls for Christ. These treks gave them very valuable training in winning souls, open-air meetings and house to house visitation. They also conducted meetings for boys and girls.
When visiting U.S.A. in 1946 I witnessed the great advantages of the American method of Pastors having a full-time secretary, handling all the correspondence, clerical work, accounts, etc., and in 1948 my daughter, Miss Marjorie L. Parr, resigned a prominent, lucrative position as Personnel Officer in a very large factory and became the Church Secretary and the Pastor’s Secretary. This proved to be a marvellous move as it gave me more time for prayer, study and visiting.
The fantastic progress of the work of God at Bethshan Tabernacle after I had resigned all my offices in Assemblies of God in 1934 and devoted all my energies, time and God-given abilities to the Bethshan work was absolutely phenomenal; while we did not lay undue emphasis on finance, it does say in the Acts of the Apostles that when the Blessing of God was poured out abundantly on the early Church they gave abundantly. The fabulous growth of our offerings from 1934, when they were £1,201, to 1964, when they were £11,900 per annum is in itself a magnificent testimony of the astonishing growth of the work.
When the Second World War finished in 1945 it was still difficult to get the unsaved into the meetings. After seeking the face of the Lord, He put into my heart revolutionary plans for attacking principalities, powers and wicked spirits who were rushing millions of young and old into hell. I was greatly inspired by the following words written by Rev. Samuel Chadwick “There is no divinity in methods. They are expedients chosen for their effectiveness and their only justification is their success. The Church is hampered and crippled by its absurd reverence for useless and worn-out methods. Its armoury is a museum, useless in warfare and turning soldiers into dawdlers and cranks. Methods successful in one generation are useless in the next and to cling to useless apparatus while men are perishing is criminal folly. Keep moving. Adapt your methods to the task, men do not go fishing with a frying pan, nor shooting with broomsticks. If Saints had as much sense as they have piety, the world would be saved, but alas “the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light”. The Church is cursed with a conservatism that clings to effete and useless forms and methods. Most Churches would find their salvation in a Hezekiah who would call their brazen serpents by their right names and break them in pieces. When any method becomes a lifeless and useless thing, its proper place is the scrap heap. The only way to conquest is over the bodies of dead heroes. Keep moving. Let the dead bury their dead. Let dead men stop with dead things, and let the living follow the living Spirit. Keep moving Brethren. There is life and conquest in progress, the stationary stagnate and die. New wine bursts old bottles. “The Spirit of aggression will burst a good many things and the sooner the better”. This statement should be written in letters of fire on the walls of every Church. We refused to listen to some cranks who said “Cheer up Brother, numbers don’t count”, and others would say “After all Brother to be in the Will of God is better than success”. I refused to have stagnation and cessation of progress. We were not after increased offerings or big offerings but we were after big hell-bound sinners. On one occasion I was moved to attack the hosts of hell and darkness by launching a gigantic literature crusade and determined to distribute in one month 250,000 Gospel tracts. Five captains were appointed over five groups to supervise distribution to all classes of people within two miles of the Tabernacle. One captain supervised distribution to every pub, another supervised distribution to every school and college, another had charge of distribution at every football match and others went to every coffee bar, milk bar, bingo hall and shopping centre. Our goal was reached and in one month our workers had distributed 250,000 Gospel tracts. The Lord abundantly blessed this move and we had the joy of continually seeing lost sinners accepting the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour. On another occasion the Lord gave me directions to launch a 500 Crusade. The crusade was launched on January 1st. We had very large celluloid badges made bearing the figures “500”. We supplied the wearers of the badges with circulars giving them advice on what to say when asked “What does that badge mean?” They were also advised what to do if people became interested; how to lead them to Christ and how to follow them up.
During that year we received the names and addresses of over seven hundred people who were won for Christ, in buses, trains, shops, homes and other places. We refused to submit to failure, stagnation or lack of progress and many plans were designed for attacks on the hosts of hell and darkness and to liberate young and old from the grip of sin and Satan. One plan was a mail order soul winning scheme and carefully worded letters were sent to hundreds of addresses each month for four months. We had a marvellous motor cavalcade with motor cars and motor bikes bearing streamers. On another occasion we had fifty sandwich boards made, and fifty of our white-hot soul winners marched round the district, ten yards apart; this enabled the people to read all the texts and messages on the posters. Our God is the God of variety and we must be prepared to change our methods if we are not meeting with success in winning souls for Christ. God gave Moses a rod and probably Pharaoh’s Generals thought Moses was a fool when they saw him stretch his rod over the Red Sea but they did not laugh when, having reached the other side of the Red Sea, Moses stretched out his rod and the waters came back and drowned every one of Pharaoh’s Generals, officers and warriors. The Lord did not give Joshua a rod to make a way through Jordan, but instructed him to put the priests, carrying the Ark, at the head of the procession. Away with absurd reverence for worn-out methods. Neither Elijah nor Elisha used the ancient method of Moses or Joshua for crossing a river. They took Elijah’s mantle and smote the waters of Jordan and the river was parted. Jehovah has a thousand ways of accomplishing the impossible and He is able to show us new ways and methods of winning the lost and bringing them to Jesus Christ.
In 1951 when I reached the age of sixty-five I re-dedicated my life, possessions and everything I had to the Lord Jesus and urged Him to give me another ten years preaching the glorious Gospel and asked Him to give me more souls during those ten years than He had helped me to win during the whole of my Christian service. The Lord took me at my word and commenced to plan for the accomplishment of this burning passion in my soul for the hell-bound millions. In 1955 the British Assemblies of God telephoned inviting me to be Radio Evangelist on Radio Luxembourg and it was my privilege and great joy to preach over that station for nearly five years to an estimated number of 500,000 people every week listening to “Revival Time”. Over three hundred people sent letters informing us they had accepted the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour. One Radio Evangelist who had been preaching over the radio for many years informed me that the number of letters received could be multiplied by five to allow for those who accepted Christ after listening to the programme but did not go to the trouble of writing a letter. My radio ministry has since that date increased and abounded and it has been my great joy to preach the glorious Gospel of Christ to millions over W.I.V.V., Puerto Rico (West Indies), “Y.N.O.L.” Nicaragua (Central America), Radio Australia, Radio Manx, Radio Caroline (British Isles) and Radio Manila (Far East Broadcasting Co.). (These programmes are sponsored by the New Life Evangelical Association, Australia, British A. of G. and Bethshan Tabernacle.) Letters from listeners to this programme have been received from the following countries: Ghana, New Guinea, Japan, Assam, Ceylon, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Borneo and Burma. “Bless the Lord O my soul and all that is within me praise His Holy Name”. What a magnificent door the Lord opened to me when he made it possible for me to go on the radio. It has been my joy to preach over two thousand times all over the world over various radio stations.
When I reached the age of seventy it seemed to me the time had come to prepare for the future of Bethshan Tabernacle. With this end in view I commenced to draft out a constitution. This was submitted to our solicitors for their comments and corrections and when visiting U.S.A. obtained copies of the American Assembly of God constitution for their 7,000 local Assemblies. This was carefully studied by our solicitors and myself. We incorporated in the Bethshan constitution some of the provisions which we thought would be applicable to this country. The final constitution has proved to be a very satisfactory document. About this time we appointed a co-Pastor, hoping he would ultimately step into my shoes. Ultimately this appointment did not prove satisfactory. Notwithstanding our trials, the Lord continued to fill the meetings with revival fire and power and many sinners continued coming to the Saviour in nearly every meeting.
THE INCREDIBLE NEW BETHSHAN
The old Bethshan was again packed to its utmost capacity on Sundays and plans were obtained for the erection of a new Bethshan Tabernacle to seat about 1,500 people The co-operation, help and consideration received from Messrs. Steward and Broster in the erection of this magnificent building was absolutely phenomenal. The seating capacity is fourteen hundred and at the opening services in 1958 every seat was taken and an overflow service was held in the old building. After the opening, scores of people attended the meeting who were unable to obtain a seat in the old Bethshan.
Magazine News Report of Opening of the New Bethshan Tabernacle
When Mr. J. Nelson Parr, director of buying at an aircraft factory, walked out of industry into religion he had a “flock” of only 15 people.
It needed a great sense of vocation to leave a lucrative job to pioneer a new religious movement with such a meagre following. But this was no lost cause
The first meeting was held in Levenshulme Town Hall, Manchester, in 1927 and a year later the first church—the original Bethshan Tabernacle—was built in Crowcroft Road, Longsight, to seat 400 people
It was extended in 1930 and now, while so many churches complain of declining congregations and empty pews, Pastor Nelson Parr had one weekly problem—finding space for more than 800 people who regularly attend the Sunday night services.
This is no longer a problem. For, beside the original church has risen the new, almost startlingly modern Bethshan Tabernacle.
This fan-shaped brick building looks more like a theatre than a church. Architect Mr. Ernest Prestwich, of J. C. Prestwich and Sons, of Leigh, had the task of making his design fit the site as closely as possible, and the new tabernacle has an air of spaciousness.
Cost of the building, with furnishings, is estimated at about £38,000. It is 100 feet long and at its widest part is 154 feet across.
The floor slopes slightly and narrows towards a platform fronted by natural oak panelling and on either side of the platform microphones are concealed behind acoustic panels. Efficient heating is provided by a hot air system.
Daylight streams in through large windows and contemporary light fittings hang decoratively from the blue fibre-board ceiling.
The walls are cream and heavy red linoleum covers the five main aisles.
An outstanding feature of the tabernacle is the square tower, 54 feet high. Inside at the top are loud speakers through which records of bells are played.
High on the church, too, is a neon-lit cross in red with the name of the tabernacle lit up in 18-inch-high blue letters.
Bethshan is one of more than 500 churches affiliated under the title of Assemblies of God of Great Britain and Ireland.
Pastor Nelson Parr did pioneering work to link these scattered churches into one organisation.
There is in this movement a deliberate effort to get away from the normal ecclesiastical pattern. For instance, Bethshan Tabernacle has an orchestra instead of an organ.
“We think an orchestra puts more life into the singing,” said Pastor Parr. “And we have avoided Gothic windows and other ecclesiastical architecture.”
The money raised towards the cost of the new church has come from donations and interest-free loans—no bazaars, whist drives, or other money-raising events.
Under the blessing of God the work has grown considerably and reckoning our Sunday School, Branch Sunday Schools and “Y.E.S.” Centres nearly two thousand Young People and Adults are receiving Bible Training. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.
At our Easter Conventions, which were usually advertised as “Four Days With God” the new tabernacle was packed to its utmost capacity and amazing supernatural Holy Ghost Power and Revival descended on the meetings. People came from all over Britain to these Conventions.
In November, 1959, my beloved partner in sacrifice, sufferings, sorrows and triumphs was called Home. To lose my life partner was the most stunning blow I had ever received. Three words in 2 Kings Ch. 4:8 express my testimony of the character, life and service of my departed wife. “A great woman.” She was a great wife, a great mother, a great disciple, a great follower of Christ, a great pastor’s partner.
In 1960 the European Evangelistic Society requested me to visit Russia to find out what had happened to the Russian Pentecostal churches and their pastors. Before the Russian Revolution there were about 250 Pentecostal Assemblies in Russia and all the pastors of these churches were either put into prison or sent to Siberia. We had already received authentic information that the Chairman of the Pentecostal Churches had died in Siberia from exposure but we had no information about the other pastors. I travelled to West Berlin by plane and then, after much trouble, crossed the Iron Curtain to the East Berlin airport to catch the plane for Moscow and was met by one of the pastors of the Baptist Church. The Council of the “Union of Evangelical Churches and Baptists” (this is a union of “Evangelical Churches, Pentecostal Churches and Baptist Churches”, at that time—in 1960—they had a membership of over 500,000 and it was estimated that about 250,000 were Pentecostal people) provided a welcome meal for me and after this was finished the members of the Council bombarded me with questions for about two hours. I was the first British Pentecostal preacher they had met since the revolution and they wanted to know all about the Pentecostal movement in England. I had to be very careful and very diplomatic as I soon became convinced one of the members of the Council was a Communist member.
I did not ask them any questions until I was about to leave Moscow and then I suggested they should provide a farewell meal as I had about fifteen questions to put before them. They were delighted to fall in with my suggestion and the farewell meal was arranged for the evening before I left Moscow for London. I discovered all the pastors and ministers had been liberated. The meetings held in the Baptist Church were fantastic. There was Revival atmosphere in all the meetings and I could only say to myself “God is in this place”. There would be about fifteen hundred in every meeting and some would stand for over two hours. I did not see one person with a Bible but when the preacher read from the Bible many people were writing quickly on paper the portion which was being read. I discovered it was impossible to obtain a Bible in Russia because they could not obtain a permit to obtain paper for printing Bibles. Since my return from Moscow our society has sent a few hundred Bibles to Russia. Many remarkable facts were revealed to me and my visit proved to be very successful.
AN INCREDIBLE SERVICE
About 1960, once again it seemed essential to make provision for the future of Bethshan Tabernacle by appointing a co-pastor. I had turned seventy-five and although working and preaching as hard as ever, the future prosperity of the work at Bethshan weighed heavily upon me, and that is the only reason why, as I approached my seventy-eighth birthday I resigned the Pastorate of Bethshan Tabernacle on October 24th, 1964. The following is a report of that historic occasion, which was not only a recognition service but also an induction service.
An historic occasion in the British Pentecostal movement was held on October 24, 1964, in Bethshan Tabernacle, Manchester, with over 1,400 people present to honour the founder and minister of the church, J. Nelson Parr, who was retiring from pastoral ministry. It was a moving service, packed with pathos but anointed of God. Earlier over 400 members had sat down to tea, and had also heard a high and worthy tribute paid to brother Parr by Alderman Leslie Lever, M.P., J.P., who referred to the vast amount of work done for youth in the city by Mr. Parr and his workers for thirty-seven years.
That this service was so widely representative evidenced the high esteem in which brother Parr is held. Tributes were paid to the British Assemblies of God’s first chairman-secretary, first editor of “Redemption Tidings”, and pastor of their largest church for thirty-seven years. The executive council, radio council, district council, and numerous societies spoke of the tremendous contribution brother Parr had made, and of the stream of God-anointed men and women who had proceeded from Bethshan to the continents of the world, each in turn infused and enthused with the passionate zeal and abandonment of John Nelson Parr. The scope of the vision and ministry of this man of God was evidenced by the receipt of telegrams from workers all over the world, and in some instances by tape-recordings. Lifelong colleagues included W. F. P. Burton (by letter from South Africa) and James Salter (in person), co-founders of the great Congo Evangelistic Mission, who paid their sincere tributes.
Among the many presentations made to brother Parr were those from the members of Bethshan — a cheque for £500 ($1,500), a camera from “old boys” now in active ministry, and an illuminated address by the South Lancashire D.C.
Ernest Crew (British executive council) brought a short message and spoke of the thirty years he had known brother Parr personally, and of the tremendous inspiration he had been to him, after which brother Parr responded to the many expressions of admiration and gratitude. It was a deeply touching moment as this silver-haired giant spoke not only of the past, but more so of the future. At seventy-eight years of age he is still obsessed with the burning mission of evangelism, and although retiring from pastoral ministry is to undertake a vigorous programme of evangelism in campaign and radio ministry. He proceeds to Florida, U.S.A., for several revival campaigns. Well might the words of Goethe apply to brother Parr: “As long as enthusiasm lasts, so long is youth still with us”.
At the close of the service brother Parr solemnly inducted as his successor George Stormont, who had been his co-minister for sixteen months. Brother Stormont was formerly superintendent of the Essex Elim Pentecostal Churches, and his many abilities should find ample scope and challenge in pastoring the renowned Bethshan.
Reported by G. Jeffreys Williamson, Bury.
When I resigned the Pastorate of Bethshan we had over eleven hundred boys, girls, teenagers and young people attending our “Y.E.S.” Centres, Branch Sunday Schools and Young People’s Meetings, in addition to this nearly one thousand people would attend the Sunday evening service and when anything special was taking place the new tabernacle would be crowded to its utmost capacity. Compared with the early days of 1928 “This was the Lord’s doing and it was marvellous in our eyes” and compared with 1918 when we were a small company of fifteen one could only exclaim “What hath God wrought?”
In December, 1963, Mrs. Green (who had been a faithful member of the Manchester Pentecostal Church before Bethshan was built and also nursed her husband very efficiently before he was promoted to heaven) became my wife and has proved to be a great co-worker in our world-wide crusades and also a wonderful nurse during my serious illness in 1970.
INCREDIBLE EVANGELIST TO THE WORLD
In November, 1964, my wife and myself went by air to Florida to conduct crusades and this commenced my world-wide ministry in Belgium, Florida, California, South Africa and in various towns in the British Isles, in addition to my ministry on various radio stations. We have travelled over 70,000 miles and had the joy of seeing hundreds accept the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour.
Just before we left for what proved to be the greatest soul winning crusades of this period in South Africa, the following report appeared in the “Manchester Evening News”.
“Evangelist to the World.” Beryl Jones meets a veteran Manchester evangelist who has built up a large congregation and is in demand as a preacher overseas. Just back from the U.S. he is preparing for a South African tour.
One of the greatest blessings in the life of former Manchester minister Mr. John Nelson Parr was that God stopped him entering a theological seminary.
This unorthodox evangelist, who at the age of 80 had just returned from a preaching tour of California and is now planning one in South Africa, says that firmly and with only a hint of a twinkle.
He goes on to explain: “My education in Manchester did not get very high, but I taught myself Latin and Greek to pass the entry exam and go to the seminary with a friend of mine.
“I pulled out at the last minute after a talk with a minister whose brother had been there. My friend went, and came out a ‘higher critic’, as we called it then. Now we’d call them modernists.”
Which more or less covers his views on conversational parsons who meet their critics more than half way.
“They are missing the bull’s-eye by trying to adapt the Christian message to the moods of the age in this way,” he says.
“I agree that Billy Graham’s style is old fashioned, and be is doing tremendously good work. He is on par with the great Americans of the past, like Moody.
“The best things in life are old fashioned, like oranges and bananas, and I’m told I’m old fashioned too. I thump the pulpit, but not all the time. That’s bad for the pulpit.”
His wife, 65-year-old Elsie Parr—they were married three years ago, a widow and widower, as he was “retiring” chimes in: “He’s forthright and down to earth. He doesn’t mince matters.” Her husband chuckles: “Some people say pugnacious.”
In America he is known as “the Reverend”, and he has collected three honorary doctorates. In Britain he is “Mr.” and to people all over the world he is a friend’s voice on the radio, making fortnightly recordings in Manchester for transmission from several radio stations. He has thousands of letters from a score of countries to prove it.
After 47 years as minister of the Pentecostal Church in Longsight, he is still on a voyage of discovery of the world and humanity. He was first invited to America in 1946 by ex-GIs who had attended his church when they were stationed at Burtonwood—“they discovered an Englishman could preach”—and has been back three times for lengthy tours as well as visiting Russia and East and West European countries.
Under the angelically white hair, like a flattened aureole (“Is it real?” a Californian woman asked Mrs. Parr) his eyes are keen for human oddity and his curiosity is never satisfied.
Taken through San Francisco to see the Hippies (“They inject drugs in their hips, and they are 50 times worse than our beatniks”) he noticed one Hippie selling magazines, and immediately asked his driver to stop “because I wanted to find out all about them.”
Unfortunately, the magazine turned out to be “the most disgusting thing I had ever seen in my life”.
He quickly denies American allegations of British immorality and godlessness.
“There’s glue sniffing, for instance. I’d never heard of it, but apparently it’s all over America. And the students at the University of California—you never saw such specimens. Some of them walk the streets in bare feet I was told, because they wanted to keep humble.”
Mrs. Parr interjects with a touch of his forthrightness: “Their expressions didn’t justify it”.
But he adds just a little wistfully: “They are more generous to their ministers than English congregations. It’s quite a common thing for a new car to be brought to the minister’s door on an anniversary or his birthday.
He might have been a leading businessman, for he was one of Geoffrey de Havilland’s staff when the firm had only 150 men.
“He sent me up in an open plane in 1917, and the pilot shouted: ‘We’ve lost a wheel, so hold tight as we land’.”
Or he might have been a diplomat. The European Evangelistic Society, of which he is chairman, sent him to Russia to discover what had happened to 300 ministers who were jailed or exiled.
“I left the inquiries until my last night, then I felt nothing much could happen even if it was all reported.” he says drily. And he got the information — the ministers had been released after Stalin’s death, though their chairman had died in Siberia.
But he was converted at a Manchester meeting when he was 17 and that shaped his life, sending him first to part-time preaching and then to the full-time ministry.
“We believe Jesus Christ is coming again,” he says with breathtakingly simple sincerity. “I decided it was possible he might come in my lifetime, so why stay in business and make money when I could go out and save thousands of people?
“When I was 65 I dedicated my life afresh to God and asked Him to enable me to bring more people to Christ in the next 10 years than I had in all my previous life.”
Yes, he says promptly, he thinks he has saved thousands of people.
“I didn’t know how it was going to be done, but then I received a phone call asking me to broadcast on a religious programme,” he says.
He gives individual instances, a crippled millionaire he met in Florida (“We called him the diamond worshipper”), and a 21-year-old criminal in an American prison (“A month later his pastor told me he was definitely a changed man”).
“We’re the Pentecostal Rolling Stones” she chuckles. “After working as a canteen manageress in Romiley for years, I’d dreamed of retiring to the seaside and we only come here to rest between trips!
“On the South African tour, which starts in November, Mr. Parr will find his Pentecostal congregations carefully divided into three, African, Coloured and European.”
The meetings held in most of the churches in South Africa were absolutely colossal and especially the Christmas Convention Meetings convened by Pastor Nicholas Benghu. There would be about ten thousand Bantu Africans at these meetings and the blessing, the power, the glory and presence of God in those Christmas Meetings baffle description. At the first Crusade held in South Africa two men came to Christ; one was a criminal and the other an atheist. The pastor said if nothing else happens while you are in South Africa it has been well worth coming to get those two men to Christ. The following extract from a letter dated June 20th, 1968, received from Pastor J. S. W. Bond. B.A.(Theol.), Chairman of the General Executive, Assemblies of God (South Africa) speaks for itself.
Dear Brother Parr,
Last week I attended Executive meetings in Johannesburg. I was asked by the Executive to write to you expressing the gratitude of our Fellowship for the very blessed tour of our Assemblies which you have just completed.
This task is, of course, a great pleasure for me, since I shall always remember with joy the fellowship we had with you and Sister Parr. I would like you to know that many of our Assemblies have found that your visit to them was a milestone in their assembly life.
In Cape Town we certainly feel that this was so. Your ministry among us was deeply appreciated, but the effect of your vision will transcend in importance anything that you achieved directly while you were among us. Thank you sincerely for what you brought, and for what you left behind. May God spare you for many more such tours. You can rest assured that they are fruitful. Perhaps they could prove even more fruitful than your many years of successful ministry in Bethshan Tabernacle, blessed as those have been.
I do trust that you will remember us all in South Africa, and do not forget your promise to celebrate your hundredth birthday by giving us a campaign in Cape Town.
This is a copy of the first circular sent to some of the leading British Pastors of a few of the Independent Pentecostal Churches.
Dear Brother in Christ,
Having recently discussed with several Leaders the urgent necessity of establishing a union of Assemblies, it has been laid upon my heart to take a step towards the accomplishment of this object.
It is with great joy that I learn from Brother A. H. Cooper that you are willing to co-operate and render every assistance possible. I am therefore enclosing a draft letter which it is suggested should be sent to the Leaders of Pentecostal Assemblies.
It is very essential that the first letter should bear the signatures of several Leaders and I shall be glad if you will give me permission to append your signature.
Any suggested alterations to the draft letter will be very gratefully received; please do not hesitate to make any suggestions whatever.
A draft of the proposals to be put before the Assemblies will D.V. be sent to you at an early date for prayerful and earnest consideration, it is then suggested that the Brethren whose signatures will be shown on the attached letter arrange a preliminary meeting to discuss and agree upon the basis of the suggested union.
In closing may I give you my sincere and earnest assurance that the supreme desire filling my heart is to see that union established which so many are longing for; and my joy will be to retire into the background when it is an accomplished fact.
Yours in Christ Jesus our One Lord.
J. N. PARR.
Copy of Draft Letter to be sent to Independent Pentecostal Meetings. This became Circular No. 1 and was sent to all the independent Pentecostal Meetings after being approved and signed by the following Pastors: Moser, Mercy, Myerscough, Gee, A. H. Carter, Buckley, Parr, Blackman, Watson, Inman, Watkinson, Webster.
Beloved in Christ Jesus,
Greetings! For some considerable time it has been apparent to those who have at heart the interest of the Pentecostal work in Great Britain, that the one outstanding need is a closer co-operation and union of the Assemblies.
Although previous efforts to bring about union have apparently failed yet there are a number of leaders and elders in this country who are firmly convinced that the Spirit of God has revealed to them that a sound and Scriptural Union should and must be established for the following reasons:
The situation undoubtedly calls for and demands immediate, earnest and prayerful consideration and action.
There can be union without Legislative Authority, without “Centralization” and without interference in local church government from any council or committee that the assemblies may see fit to appoint for advisory or executive purposes.
In furtherance of this object we the undersigned earnestly request that God’s people everywhere will earnestly intercede that the will of God may be accomplished in this matter.
“Prayer changes things”
It is therefore suggested that December 1923 be set apart by all Assemblies standing for the full gospel for special prayer and fasting.
We invite and will heartily welcome any suggestions you may desire to put forward.
A further communication will D.V. be sent to you after December.
May we all seek in meekness, humility, forbearance, longsuffermg and love to strive together by prayer, exhortation and influence to establish union of the Assemblies, as we feel confident this will bring praise, honour and glory to the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Yours in Christ Jesus our One Lord.
J. N. PARR.
(A draft of the first Constitution was attached to this Circular.)
23rd January, 1924.
Beloved in Christ Jesus,
Greetings! I enclose herewith, a rough draft of a few proposals which will D.V. be brought forward for consideration at the conference which it is hoped will be held on the 1st February at Birmingham.
If you do not heartily endorse any or all the Minutes shown, please do not allow this to keep you from the conference, as I accept sole responsibility for these proposals, and although they have been prayerfully drawn up so that we should have something definite before us, I will with all my heart, welcome any other suggestions you may have to make so as to accomplish the objects detailed in our first circular.
May I suggest that you read through these proposals very prayerfully, and make a careful note of your suggested alterations, amendments or additions, so that when in the Will of God, we come together the time will be profitably spent.
May we have a real time of fellowship and unity, also a wonderful consciousness of the Presence of God.
Yours very Sincerely in our One Lord,
J. NELSON PARR.
Beloved in Christ Jesus,
With very Sincere Greetings in the Name of our One Lord and Redeemer.
Signed on behalf of the following signatories,
J. N. PARR.
March 28th, 1924.
Beloved in Christ Jesus,
Greetings! I am pleased to say
that the response to our last circular has been most encouraging, may we
therefore join together in thanksgiving unto our Glorious Lord for His
Divine blessing upon our efforts.
The Assemblies of God of Great
Britain and Ireland is now an accomplished fact and the time has arrived
when, by the grace and blessing of God it should become a living, powerful
and energetic organism.
Enclosed you will find a list
of “A” Meetings who have agreed to be recognised as Assemblies of God,
and these meetings therefore now constitute the Assemblies of God of Great
Britain and Ireland. “B” Meetings who have signed form B and therefore
desire further information before signing Form “A”. We expect these
meetings will send representatives to the first General United Conference.
The Assemblies of God of South
Wales, have unanimously accepted the minutes and statements of Fundamental
Truths and have agreed to send representatives to the Conference.
Regarding the General United
Conference. It has been suggested to me that all the meetings shown on the
attached list should have an opportunity of voting on the time and place.
The places suggested are
London, Birmingham and Preston, in this connection there is one important
point to consider i.e. cheap railway facilities will be available to
London from all parts of the country during April and May.
The times suggested are Friday
and Saturday, May 2nd and 3rd or May 9th and 10th, or Thursday and Friday
May 1st and 2nd or May 8th and 9th.
Will you kindly let me have a
P.C. by return giving your suggestions on these two points,
I attach herewith suggested
Agenda, this is subject to revision.
Will you kindly favour me with
the names of any brethren you desire to nominate for the Executive
Presbytery—see Minute 18.
If you have any suggestions to
make regarding the Missionary Problem and the publication of an official
organ it will save much time if you will kindly let me have them before
Our greatest need is much
prayer, so that we may be saved from becoming lifeless and over-organised
but that the work may be established in the Abounding Grace of God and the
Omnipotent Power of the Spirit of God.
Yours very sincerely in our
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
J. N. Parr.
It is thought that David, when he was very old wrote Psalm 145 and in this song he magnified, exalts and glorifies the Lord for: 1. His greatness (verses 1 to 6); 2. His greatness and the glorious majesty of His kingship (7–13); 3. His providential care (14–17); 4. His divine preservation and provision. This song expresses my feelings when taking a panoramic view of my life from the day of my conversion to Christ in April, 1904, and especially of the triumphs and tribulations, the conflicts and conquests since Christmas Day 1910 to 1970; being sixty years of Pentecostal triumph and achievement. The Lord be abundantly magnified.