St John's Lowestoft (1921)

During the last week of March, the meetings which had previously been held in the Baptist Church, Christ Church and the Bethel, moved to St. John's Church where the vicar, the Rev. William Hardie, supported the work of revival. St. John's, which was situated just south of the harbour bridge, seated eleven hundred people and its spire was a landmark in the centre of the town. Sadly, only Christ Church and the Bethel still remain today. The London Road Baptist Church moved to Kirkley and its former magnificent preaching auditori­um was demolished in 1974 to make way for Boots and a pedestrian precinct. The parish of St. John's was amalgamated with St. Peter's at Kirkley and the church building, which was filled to overflowing in those revival days, was also demolished. The fourth week of the revival saw the best attended meetings of all, with the numbers swelled by people coming in from the surrounding neighbourhood. The evening services were preceded by open-air meetings at six o'clock. Even today, more than seventy years later, there are those who say of those services in the church, 'Oh it was wonderful! There were people every­where, on the window sills, round the font, on the pulpit steps and in the aisles' Others claim, ‘I came out at St John’s.’

‘On the Thursday night of the fourth week it was a wonderful sight,’ said Hugh Ferguson. 'An hour before the service was due to begin the great building was packed, and at the close we thanked God for many who had passed from death into life and received Christ as their own personal Saviour: One man, who was young at the time told the writer how he saw one and another kneel­ing by the hedgerows as he walked home to Oulton Broad front St. John's. The final meeting on the Friday evening was to have been held at the Baptist Church where it all began, but Mr Ferguson knew it would be impossible to accommodate all the people there, so he and Mr Hardie decided it should be held at St. John's.

As on the previous evening every conceivable space in the church was taken long before the service was due to begin, and there were still people out­side. In many respects that final service was a summary of all that had hap­pened throughout that memorable month. The four ministers in the pulpit were wonderfully united in the Gospel: the Baptists, Douglas Brown and Hugh Fer­guson, and the Anglicans, John Hayes and William Hardie. The congregation included people from every kind of church and from no church at all. Among them were Anglicans, Nonconformists. Salvationists. Brethren and those who attended the Railway Mission. There were even Christian Scientists who, as Mr Ferguson said, 'Got converted and when they got Christ they broke from Christian Science.’ Singing had featured in all the meetings throughout the month. Some of the gospel hymns from Sankey's collection had been sung time and time again: 'I am coming Lord', 'Come to the Saviour now', and 'Blessed be the fountain of blood', which came to be known as the hymn of the revival. On that last evening St. John's Church and its vicinity echoed with the strains or 'What a Friend we have in Jesus'. The organist was thrilled to play for such a meeting and his choir that evening, singing from the chancel, included manty fishermen. They sang the version with the chorus 'I love Jesus, hallelujah.

I love Jesus, yes I do.

They held on to that chorus two or three times. Another unforgettable moment was the singing by that great congregation of 'God be with you till we meet again, joined by the crowds in the street outside. It was the same simple, direct gospel message which was again preached on that last evening: the gospel of man's ruin through sin, and his salvation through Christ and His blood shed on Calvary.

From, 'A Forgotten Revival', by Stanley Griffin, page 30-32, with permission from the publishers, DayOne Publications.