Chapel-in-the-Field Congregational Church (1921)



Two weeks after concluding at Yarmouth (June 27th), Douglas Brown commenced a week of meetings in Norwich. Hugh Ferguson described them as unforgettable:

'Every building that we had for the evening services was packed with men and women, many of whom found Christ'. The visit, like those to other places, was given very little publicity; only a brief notice in the local press. A clergyman came to Norwich and asked a railway porter the shortest way to the cathedral. The Rev. Douglas Brown is preaching here,' was the reply, 'and if you want a good thing I would advise you to leave the cathedral alone and go down to St. Mary's Chapel. I have been there every night and I have got what is well worth getting, and if you want a good thing that is the place to go. That is how the meetings were publicised. From 'A Forgotten Revival' by Stanley C Griffin, published by DayOne Publications pages 48-51 ‘Used with permission of Day One Publications, www.dayone.co.uk’ .

St. Mary's Baptist Chapel was crowded to capacity for the opening ser­vice, with extra chairs placed down the aisles. The first hymn was Rescue the Perishing', and it was interrupted by Douglas Brown who appealed to believers in the congregation to go to the school-room and pray, and so make room for those who were crowding around the doors to come in. It was striking that Dou­glas Brown was accompanied in the pulpit by Canon Hay Aitken, Canon Resi­dential), of Norwich Cathedral. Converted in the 1859 revival, his formerly raven hair and beard now white, he looked an impressive figure as he stood in the pulpit and prayed extemporarily with great fervour. Before reading the Scriptures Mr. Brown said:

'I have come to Norwich because I believe it is the will of God that I should spend this week with you... I ask you to pray earnestly in your homes that there may he poured upon this city a spirit of convic­tion of sin. Until men and women realise themselves to be sinners in God's sight, there will be no receiving of the word of God unto salva­tion. Brothers and sisters, nothing will save our beloved land but a revival from heaven... O God, this week send forth Thy Holy Spirit and purge the churches. Bring back backsliders, give a great sense of sin, answer mothers' prayers, fathers' prayers, for children; answer children's prayers for parents. Whatever there may he wrong in any church, O God, put it right this week. Let it be known in this city that God is at work; let it be a week of great rejoicing, as we stand still and see the salvation of the Lord! Pray earnestly. You cannot make a revival: but no multitude of people ever got down on its knees before Calvary but what revival came. God bring us back to Calvary, back to that clear old Gospel in all its simplicity. May the pierced hands of Jesus Christ res­cue hundreds of souls this week. See to it that you pray. Pray in the Holy Spirit, and God will answer with miracles of grace.'"

This was probably a spontaneous expression of Douglas Brown's desire and prayer. It shows his uncomplicated concept of revival and the central place he gave to the Gospel and the cross in his preaching

After reading from Matthew's Gospel the account of Jesus and Peter walk­ing on the water, Douglas Brown preached, and this is how the local press reporter described him: ‘With outspread and uplifted hands employed in ges­tures never inappropriate though possibly a little too profuse, he declared that nothing will save our beloved nation but a revival from heaven, for we had turned our hacks upon God. With a fine modulated voice, sometimes breaking with emotion and sometimes rising in appeal almost to the level of a command, he uttered a typical evangelistic address, doctrinally of the sort that might have fallen forty years ago from D. L. Moody.'

After preaching, Douglas Brown went to the vestry to talk with those who wereanxious about their souls while Hugh Ferguson addressed waverers in grave and measured words of appeal', to which a number responded. During the hymn which followed, the singing was stopped to allow Canon Hay Aitken to speak to the undecided and to urge upon people the importance of confessing Christ with the words, 'If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.' (Romans 9:10)

On Tuesday evening, Princes Street Congregational Church was crowded to capacity. Before preaching Douglas Brown commented on the lack of any formal programme of meetings in the different places he visited. 'For four long months I have been watching for the salvation of the Lord without any pro­gramme. If you had met with an organised committee of clergy and ministers to consider the possibility of a week's mission in the city of Norwich in a broiling week at the end of June, do you think it would ever have happened?' There were so many seekers at the close that Hugh Ferguson, who was in charge of the meeting, asked his fellow ministers on the platform to go to the inquiry room, 'where many anxious inquirers are waiting for someone to speak to them about their souls' salvation'

A report in The Christian by the Rev. Sydney Laver of Chapel-in the-Field Congregational Church, claimed that the revival in East Anglia had reached Norwich. He wrote that it had at least four distinctive features: spontaneity, togetherness, prayer and the Spirit of Witness. He was amazed at the courage of some young Christians. As in other places, the prayer meetings had been in the mornings, with local young people pleading for the salvation of their parents and grand-parents, together with prayer requests from all over the country. Three of the largest churchesin the city were packed on successive evenings and twice there were overflow meetings. Although many converts had been gathered in, Mr. Laver felt the greatest work had been done among Christians.

A fortnight later Douglas Brown returned to Norwich to preach at Chapel-in-the-Field Congregational Church. Although it was midweek during a spell of very hot weather. the church was well filled in the afternoon and crammed in the evening. Mr Brown was suffering from blood-poisoning of the leg and medical opinion had advised a rest. In the afternoon he preached on Lamenta­tions 3:51 'Mine eye affecteth mine heart'. Although more than once he remarked that he 'must go on slowly'. the press report said there were passages in his pleading during which the preacher flashed forth with his accustomed fire’. In the evening the seating capacity was taxed to the utmost. The service was conducted by Fred Humphrey- of St. Mary's Baptist Church and, in spite of the soaring temperature, Douglas Brown seemed to forget his disability. He preached with great power on the links between the Old Testament picture of the three anointings of David, and the three appearings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There were remarkable instances of conversion at Norwich. 'Three engaged couples wereat one of the services and each of the three young women went to the inquiry room, accepted Christ and resolved to tell their young men immedi­ately, what had happened to them. They found that all three young men had come under conviction, had gone to another inquiry room and had been con­verted themselves. A husband and wife, who were not Christians. went to the meeting in Princes Street Congregational Church. The lady went to the inquiry room, accepted Christ, then went to confess her new-found faith to her husband, only to find that he had also been converted. Four young fellows from an outly­ing village came into a church in Norwich where a meeting was being held, to see and hear for themselves. Nothing was further from their minds than that they would he converted, but they were all four of them! Canon Hay Aitken made the following observation to The Christian:

'Mr. Brown preaches the old gospel with simplicity and directness, and there can he no question as to his earnestness and yearning love for souls. His style is much less anecdotal than was that of D. L. Moody, and that makes his hold on the people all the more remarkable. It was delightful to see clergymen and ministers working together in the inquiry room, and took one's mind back to the dear old days gone by, when that was no uncommon sight."