A New Arrival in Town     (by Jon Shuler​​)

The termination of the Curate’s Role disrupted the Eldership as a functioning body for the next few months, though the desire for unity and much charity kept the life of the parish functioning well, at least on the surface. A season of change was beginning to unfold that would see most of the old leadership moving on to new work in other parts of the world. The repetitive change that comes to any University town also saw those much involved while students graduating, and a new influx arriving to take their place. Outwardly, the parish continued to flourish, and numbers attending stayed high. The Eldership was reconstituted with the addition of a Medical Doctor, the rector’s wife, and a professor from one of the University Departments. Then a new clergyman came to town.

The Revd George Carey would later be known worldwide as the Archbishop of Canterbury, but when he first arrived in Durham his fame lay in the future. He was called to be Vicar of St Nicholas Church, in the heart of Durham. This parish was the long standing home of all those who were determinedly Evangelical, and had been suffering a slow decline for some years, and it was hoped that his energy and vision would bring new life. Before he arrived, he had heard of St Margarets and its renewal, and soon after taking the reins in his parish he went up to see for himself. He attended one of the vibrant renewal Evensongs that had become so central to the revival there, and he came home determined to see it spread to his parish too. He told his wife Eileen: “I don’t know exactly what that is, but I want it for St Nicholas.”

George Carey would later tell the details in his book, The Church in the Marketplace, and the story would spread the fame of what was happening in Durham far and wide in the British Isles and beyond. Wonderful things began to happen at St Nichols, and for a season the hopes of widespread revival in the whole city grew, The United Reformed Church began to join the movement, and several other parishes in the diocese as well. In time, the excitement and energy that had first burst forth at St Margarets moved more and more to St Nicholas. Simultaneously, the reputation of the Faculty of Divinity in the University of Durham continued to get stronger and stronger, and the particular fame of St John’s College – the Evangelical College in Durham – was increasing as well. For the better part of the next several decades many of the Church of England’s future leaders of distinction would pass though Durham. Carey would be called to take over Bristol Theological College in 1982, when the fires of revival were dying down. Two years later  a new Bishop of Durham was announced. Fr Davis stepped back into the limelight.

The bishop elect was a notoriously radical theologian, and his appointment seemed to all concerned with renewal in the Church of England to be designed to stop the spread of biblical renewal in the Diocese of Durham and the Northeast. The rector of St Margaret’s wrote to the bishop-elect privately and implored him to decline the appointment, but to no avail. He then went public in opposing the new bishop, and quickly became the public leader of the opposition. It was a battle he would never win.


Next Week: Establishment Order & Dying Embers of Revival

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