Walsall - William Booth (1863)

Wednesday, June 17th. At night a very useful open-air service. I was afraid at the beginning we were going to fail. I had but few supporters and there were not many listeners. However, the crowd soon gathered. Just as I commenced, a horse breaker began driving a young colt round and round among the people. After some remonstrance, he desisted and took his departure. For a while my spirit was so much depressed. I was relying entirely on the inspiration at the moment for what I should say. But with the last verse of the hymn the power of effective speech was given me and one of the best services followed which I ever attended in the open air. At the close of an hour and a quarter’s address, during which time we sang twice, I invited the people to accompany us to the chapel. Then, jumping off the chair, I linked arm in that of a navvy and we marched off arm in arm with a great crowd to the chapel. In the meeting which followed about 20 came forward.

June 28th. A few days ago it occurred to me that a days open-air services would be useful in arousing the town and in bringing under the gospel a great number whom we cannot reach even with the extraordinary means we are at present employing. Accordingly, we made our plans and issued a large poster. (The meeting to be held in a field near Hatherton Lake)

The dawning of the sabbath was anxiously anticipated and very early many eyes peered forth to discern the character of the weather and we’re glade Ed at the probability of a fine day. By 9 o’clock a large company had assembled at the chapel. After prayer we started to procession the town and with a company which swelled in numbers as we proceeded, we made the streets echo with heart-stirring songs. Here and there we paused for prayer or a word of exhortation and very often for the announcement of the coming services. The people ran in crowds. Preachers and praying men from the surrounding towns and villages joined us as we passed along, hundreds of stragglers followed in our train and by the time we reached the campground we had quite an imposing gathering.

The field, which had been kindly lent for the occasion, was admirably suited for our purpose, having in it several natural eminences, at the base of which we placed our wagons and with the people lining the sides of the green hills in front and on either side the gathering presented quite a picturesque appearance. The morning services were excellent, the attendance equalling our most sanguine expectations. The afternoon excelled anything of the kind ever witnessed before in the neighbourhood. It was calculated that there were nearly 5000 people on the ground, three-fourths of whom were working men. The speakers were just of the stamp to grapple with this class: chiefly of their own order, talking to them in their own language, regarding themselves illustrations of the power of the gospel and continually crying, “such was some of us, but we are washed“.

… others spoke with equally blessed influence.

At different periods the speakers left the wagons, large circles were formed on the grass and all united in prayer. It was 5 o’clock before the afternoon service closed and then we left our friend pleading the cause of Jesus with the crowd that still lingered.

In the evening my dear wife spoke in Whittemere Street chapel, while I held a meeting in the field close by. Reunited for the prayer meeting, when about 40 sought salvation.“ 

From, 'Catherine Booth, the Mother of the Salvation Army, Volume I, by Booth-Tucker. pages 267-9.

Additional Information

The meetings were not far from the spot marked. Booth says it was a large space at the foot of the Market St, with a drinking fountain and two cannon.

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