Not What They Prayed For       ​​ (by Jon Shuler​​)

News of the dramatic changes in the first three people to experience the beginning of the revival (see last week’s blog) was soon shared at the Monday Night House Group in the Summer of 1972. Indeed it was there that the young seminarian had come under conviction, after the story of the other two had been told, and where he broke down in uncontrollable weeping. It was not what the members of the group expected, and the meeting soon came to a hurried and embarrassed end. Fr Stephen was overjoyed, however, and was eager to fan the flame. He undertook the daily discipling of the young man, and began to rethink how the parish was organized.

Early that Autumn the rector decided to use the Sunday Night Service (Evensong, or Evening Prayer) as a rallying point for those wanting to see the Lord move in a fresh way. News spread quickly through the small university town, and attendance started to grow. At the same time, the newly ordained curate and his wife began to hold a regular prayer meeting in their college flat. First a trickle, then a small stream, of students began to attend those meetings, and a number were deeply touched by God. Soon the meeting was held almost every night, and most of those attending started to go to the Sunday Night Service at St Margarets. At those services the Holy Spirit began to move, under Fr Stephen’s guiding hand, but challenges arose very quickly.

The joke among us in those days was: “When a bright light shines, it attracts the bugs.” The “light” that had begun to shine in the parish was attracting people from a distance. Some came to see what was happening, some came with a deep spiritual hunger, but some came because they believed they were needed to help us walk in the right direction. It was these latter that began to cause trouble. Evangelicals thought the theology of the Holy Spirit being shared was deficient, Pentecostals thought everything we were retaining from the Anglican helotage should be jettisoned, and strict Anglo Catholics thought the whole thing should be stopped. The diocesan establishment and the cathedral where embarrassed. We were struggling to know what to do.

By now there were a half dozen of us meeting for prayer every morning in the parish chapel. We read the daily scriptures and discussed them, then prayed and celebrated Holy Communion together. The lectionary brought us to the second chapter of Acts one day, and we all seemed to be riveted by it.

They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and fellowship,

the breaking of bread and the prayers…. (cf 2:42-47)

We had no other thought than to begin to imitate what we read. If that was the way the early church began, when the Holy Spirit first fell, then perhaps that is what God wants when there is a new beginning?

The Parish Church became our temple, and we met in one another’s homes. Soon we had formed several small communities, each made up of a nuclear family plus others who were single, which we called “Households,” in which we began to live our new life.


Next Week: News From Coventry

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