St Michael's Church Oulton (1921)

On Tuesday afternoon Douglas Brown addressed a large congregation at Oulton Parish Church. The plan for this week was for Douglas Brown to preach in the villages around Lowestoft in the evenings from Tuesday to Friday. and on the Tuesday evening a meeting was held at Holly Farm, Blundeston. A large barn was filled to overflowing as the gospel was preached in this small village which lies just to the north-west of Lowestoft.

A report in The Christian claimed that the services in Lowestoft during Whitsun week were the most remarkable of the whole series; this was certainly true of the Thursday afternoon service in Oulton Parish Church. Standing on the edge of the marshes, the Norman church of St Michael, with its central tower and a chancel as long as the nave, was full. Mr Brown gave a heart-searching address on the three anointings of King David. At the close he said that it had been laid on his heart and on the heart of the Rector, to re-dedicate themselves to God, ‘in thankfulness for all the great spiritual uplift and soul-humbling experiences of the past months'. As the last hymn 'When I Survey the Won­drous Cross’ was being sung, Mr Brown and Mr Ferguson, with the Rector of Oulton and the Vicars of Christ Church and St. John's Lowestoft, and the Con­gregational Minister, the Rev. J. Butterworth, went to the communion table and knelt. Silently and spontaneously three-quarters of the congregation followed, kneeling at the front, down the chancel, past the tower and down the nave. This is how Henry Martin, the Rector, described the close of the meeting to The Christian:

`As the last verse of the hymn, 'Were the whole realm of nature mine', was being sung, the hush of the Holy Ghost fell on the hearts of all: it was an experience to be entered into but not described. The hymn ended and in words of consecrating prayer and praise the offering of these hundreds of lives was presented for Divine acceptance. The crowd of joyful, tear-marked faces was an attestation to the quiet joy and peace that followed on this act of devotion. A memorable service thus came to its close, to be followed by lingering groups in the old churchyard whose one subject of conversation was this new found Joy.'

Henry Martin reported in another journal,

`Ministers in the vestry with hearts too full for words could only wring each other's hands as they wept together tears of joy.'

There was a remarkable prelude to that afternoon in Oulton Parish Church. Douglas Brown was staying at the Rectory during this week of meetings, and in the early hours of Thursday morning he was awakened by a voice saying. 'Thou shalt see greater things than these.' (John 14:12) He slipped quietly down to the study to pray and soon the door opened and the Rector appeared. He too had been awakened and had received the same message from John's Gospel. It had also been on Mr Brown's mind to make a public act of praise, thanksgiving and self-consecration at the afternoon service.

On Thursday evening something similar happened at the Union Chapel in Somerleyton, a delightful old-world English village a few miles from Lowest­oft. Shortly before the service an open-air meeting was held on the picturesque village green. In the chapel Douglas Brown invited short prayers from the believers who had gathered, and then delivered an informal address. After preaching he said that he and Mr Ferguson would kneel in an act of re-dedica­tion and invited other Christians to join them. He then invited those who wished to respond to Christ to come also. Middle-aged and elderly responded, while country lads and girls came forward and knelt with them. It was reported that a publican and his wife were converted, went back home and tipped their barrels of beer on the marshes!

The last meeting of this village week was held in Oulton Church Institute, which an hour before time was crowded to the doors, as also was a small Primi­tive Methodist Chapel adjoining, and an open-air audience of very considerable size. To each of these gatherings Mr Brown spoke, and souls were led to Christ.

After the moving service at St. Michael's Church on Thursday it is not surprising that the Holy Spirit was still at work there on Sunday. At the end of the morning service Henry Martin, the Rector, closed his Bible and appealed for conversions. Soon the Rector's wife was busy in the vestry leading ladies of the parish to Christ. In the afternoon the Rector walked across to the church and found a crowd of people there who wanted to get near Jesus'. It was impossi­ble to hold the normal Sunday School so the afternoon was spent in the church with young and old joining in praise and prayer. What a Sunday that was, with spiritual blessing affecting the whole district! That evening the Primitive Methodists in Oulton closed their chapel and went as a body to the Parish Church where there was another soul-stirring service. Douglas Brown's preach­ing had made a considerable impact on the Primitive Methodist congregation at Oulton with a number of conversions, including almost the whole of the young people's Bible class.

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