John Wimber was not a Pentecostal. His coming to faith occurred in an evangelical Quaker congregation, and his ministry expanded when they prayed for him to take the “Quaker Blessing” to the wider church. Within his lifetime the Vineyard Movement he led would expand around the world. Nowhere did it’s impact leave such lasting imprint as in England, and Stephen Davis wanted the blessing for St Margarets in Durham.
Embracing central tenants of Wimber’s philosophy of ministry was easy for him. David Watson’s recommendation of course hastened it. The era in which Graham Pulkingham guided Fr Stephen ended when he returned to the United States, and Watson’s calm voice and encouragement had taken principle place as an external counselor.
Prayer for healing had been a part of the ministry at St Margarets as long as Stephen had been there. Praying during services for people to be healed, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, or to come to saving faith had become normal in the early waves of renewal, so there was little that was new. Ministry time was already a normal part of every gathering before Wimber arrived in Britain. But a spirit of excitement and expectation was accompanying the arrival of Wimber’s message, and with it came a new burst of anointed songs of praise and worship. That too had been part of St Margarets for more than a decade, but the fresh sounds gave birth to a whole new generation of Christ worshippers. Many students in the University were swept up in the new movement, and a good number settled in to the parish for their time in Durham.
The “Household Community” had never ceased to be a part of the work, though largely centered in the latter years only at the Rectory, and it too experienced a resurgence. In the last years of Davis’ ministry in Durham, he was thus blessed to see yet more dozens of young men and women pass through the parish who would leave after three years and go throughout the world. Not least of these would be his succession of curates, or assistant clergy.
In many ways the Church of England was greatly changed by the Wimber phenomena. Parish after parish would remove their pews and carpet the nave in order to facilitate “ministry time.” Holy Trinity, Brompton, in London would become the flagship of this change, and with the inauguration of the Alpha Course in the early 1990s would become known throughout the world. Yet nearly all that would subsequently characterize what has sometimes been called “the Wimberization of the Church of England” had been a part of life of St Margarets since 1972.
Stephen Davis remained a liturgical churchman to the end of his days, however, and no attempt was ever made to alter the Norman building or to cease the sacramental undergirding that shaped his ministry. The hope of renewal, that the church of Jesus Christ – by the bold jpreaching of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit – would once again boldly transform lives in England, never died while he was rector.
Next Week: The Final Chapter