St Mary's Church, Sheriff Hales and Woodcote (1878)

Early in this year it was made known by the vicar that a mission would be held by the Rev. Henry Pelham Stokes
(coadjator of the Rev. W. Hay Aitken), in the parish of Sheriff-Hales-with-Woodcote, to begin on Feb 16. During
the intervening week: much prayer was made that the mission might be a season of deep spiritual blessing to numbers. A series of tracts on missions by the Rev. J A Ernest Boys, were circulated through the parish, and letters from the Vicar and the mission preacher were sent to every family. Meetings were held by the vicar on four or five nights in each week, in different parts of the widely scattered parish; and the numbers who were thus gathered together seemed drawn to share
in their pastor's earnest pleading for, and faithful expectation of, a coming blessing. 

On Saturday evening, Feb. 16, the schoolroom was filled with an earnest and expectant congregation, who listened with
deep attention to a stirring and helpful address on 1 Cor 1:27-28. The four instruments chosen by God for his service, "the
foolish," "the weak," "the base and despised," and "the things which are not." On Sunday morning the church was well-filled, and the opening sermon of the mission was preached from 1 Kings x 2. The leading thought was to impress upon the hearers that the real object of the mission was not to bring them merely to listen to the voice of a preacher, and to attend the various services, but to seek to draw each one into personal heart-communion with the blessed Saviour. who alone could answer by his Spirits teaching the many hard questions which distress the awakened soul when convicted of its sinfulness, and to satisfy the longings of the anxious and the troubled hearts.

In the evening began the special service, which is the marked feature of these missions. At the close of the sermon all dispersed excepting those who remained for the after-meeting - anxious ones inquiring the way to be saved and Christian
workers ready either to give the personal help and counsel needed by the troubled souls, or in silent prayer or by the soft
low singing of hymns, to help those who were thus engaged. All was as quiet as possible, and a deep solemnity seemed to
rest on every heart. Seeking souls then met with the Good Shepherd, and, trusting in Him alone, exchanged their doubts and fears for "peace and joy in believing" as they laid their burden of sin at the foot of the cross of Jesus. All that passed in those after-meetings is sacred: suffice it to say that each evening of the mission the numbers remaining steadily increased, until on the last Sunday there could not have been less than fifty persons remaining as inquirers.

Throughout the week thus commenced the work was carried on daily with ever-deepening blessing. At three o'clock each afternoon a meeting was held at the vicarage, and the daily-increasing attendance of from sixty to over a hundred persons
showed the value set upon these Bible readings. 

On Monday night, Feb. 25, this much-blessed mission was brought to a close by a thanksgiving service. The preacher gave most helpful practical counsels, especially to those who had given their hearts to the Lord during the mission. With one more heart-stirring appeal to the unsaved to close, then and there, with Christ's offer of salvation, the mission work ended, and the large congregation began to disperse, in silence that showed how deep was the impression left upon the minds of all present, of the great realities of eternity that had been brought before them by the preacher with such earnestness, faithfulness, and power during his ten days' work amongst them. There remained those who purposed to gather round the Lord's table. It was a most strengthening and refreshing time to those who thus offered their "sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving," looking forward with waiting and longing expectation "till He come."

Àt Woodcote also sermons were preached by the mission preacher on each Sunday afternoon, when the little church was crowded to the uttermost.

"The Christian," March 14th, 1878.

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