All Saints Parish Hall (1907)




In 1906 a revival had broken out in Los Angeles, at a converted livery stable in Asuza Street. There had been many other spectacular revivals over the years, one was going on in Wales at the same time, but what marked this out as unusual was that people were speaking in tongues. Many believers came to Asuza Street to receive this “Baptism in the Spirit”, and from these small beginnings the Pentecostal movement began to grow. In 1906, Thomas Barratt, a British born and educated Methodist minister from Norway who was in America began to hear stories about the happenings at Asuza Street. He never actually went to the meetings himself, God dealt with him in his room in New York as he fasted and prayed. He wrote: “I was seized by the Holy Power of God throughout my whole being and it swept through my whole body as well”. He had to hide his face in a towel to avoid disturbing his neighbours as he shouted his praise. Strangely enough he didn’t receive the gift of tongues until a month later when he was being prayed for in a meeting. Soon after Barratt returned to Norway, and before long he was seeing many people speaking in tongues. Word of what was taking place began to spread, and before long invitations were coming to speak in a number of different countries. One of the invitations was from Alexander A. Boddy, an Anglican minister from Sunderland. In March 1907 Boddy travelled to Norway and saw scenes which excited him even more than those he had seen in Wales during the revival there. Boddy was not new to seeing the Spirit at work; he had previously written a book on the laying on of hands and had conducted healing campaigns. He was also a leading figure in the Pentecostal League, a holiness movement which was very strong in Sunderland, regularly holding meetings in the vast auditorium of the Victoria Hall. The Pentecostal League believed in a second blessing experience which it identified with the Biblical baptism in the Holy Spirit - but not with the gift of tongues. Ironically its own magazine was called Tongues of Fire. At the end of August 1907, Thomas Barratt came to Sunderland to start a campaign of meetings in the church hall at All Saints, Monkwearmouth. The meetings were quite small, and were overlooked by many for a while. The Sunderland Echo was still giving plenty of coverage of Pentecostal League meetings, at which Alexander Boddy was still speaking in September 1907, along with its founder Reader Harris and leading light Graham Scroggie. Gradually word began to filter out that something strange was occurring. The first report in the Sunderland Echo on the meetings captures the sense of the gossip going around: “Do you know they are holding some extraordinary services at Monkwearmouth? .... Why, everybody is talking about them. Women throw themselves on the floor and then babble in unknown tongues.” The reporter comments that the meetings are the one theme of conversation in the neighbourhood. These reports are interesting to read, because they sound very similar to some of things being said of meetings held in Sunderland 87 years later. People were falling on the floor, they were laughing, and there were reports of animal noises: “When I went in I saw a woman lying on the floor. She was going ‘Ha, ha, ha.’ in a sing-song tone. Then suddenly she began to make a noise like the crowing of a barn-door fowl, finishing with a sharp ‘Phwitt, phwitt.’ like the spit of an enraged cat.” “It is no uncommon spectacle for one of them to throw themselves on the ground in a paroxysm of weeping, while others gabble and utter what appear to be unintelligible sounds” Although the meetings have become known for the speaking in tongues, they were also tremendous times of prayer and praise, with solid Biblical preaching. The meetings were conducted in two sections - the second was intended just for people who were pursuing the Baptism in the Spirit, and onlookers were discouraged from attending this meeting, which often went on late into the night. Speaking in tongues was actually quite rare in the meetings. Thomas Barratt (often misspelled as Barrett by the newspapers of the time) reckoned that he had only heard about 25 or 26 people speak in tongues in the Sunderland meetings during the first month. Even more surprisingly he claimed that he had only spoken in tongues four or five times himself. It is interesting that Boddy began to receive letters from people who had spoken in tongues in earlier years, but found that they had been accused of being mad and thrown out of their churches. The Pentecostal League had been uneasy about speaking in tongues for some time, and now that it was taking place in Sunderland, Reader Harris became quite vehement against it and also against Barratt - he claimed “the movement was tainted with uncleanness, immorality, and wickedness”. These accusations hit Boddy particularly hard as he had such a close association with the Pentecostal League for many years. The second report in the Sunderland Echo gives something of the flavour of Barratt’s response to Reader Harris. The publicity in the paper together with Reader Harris’s attacks only served to attract more people to the meetings. Within a few days other newspaper reporters were beating a path to the little hall, wanting to investigate reports that the vicar’s daughter had been speaking Chinese. One incidental effect of all these visitors was that the offerings were increased sufficiently to pay off the outstanding amount still owing on the recently constructed church hall. Afterwards a much quoted inscription was placed on the wall of the hall:

September 1907 WHEN THE FIRE OF THE LORD FELL IT BURNED UP THE DEBT

Taken from http://www.vision.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/revival/index.htmla website created by Andy Williamson