We’ve been ‘oop north’ (as they say up north in England) for a few days - and a wonderful time it was. After spending one night in Birmingham, meeting with a lovely bunch of people, we pushed on to Chesterfield, Derbyshire, an ancient and pretty little town. As we drove in, we did a double take at the amazing sight of the crooked spire on the old parish church. At first we thought maybe it was an optical illusion, but quickly realized that, no, it really was twisted and leaning dizzily to one side. We later learned that the town is famous for the crooked steeple on its 800-year-old church.
But it was another old building for which we were aiming – The Ragged School Evangelical Church. The rambling Victorian building was at one time a lace mill, then a distillery, then a storage place for elephants (really!), and is now a church. But it was used by Christians in 1878 as a Sunday School for the poor. There were no schools at all for the poor then, but on Sundays they could go to the Ragged School to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and scripture. It opened with about 100 children and soon had more than 300 crammed in, some sitting on the window sills. Many came barefooted and all were hungry, so the marvelous Christians of those days used one room as a kitchen and fed the children as well.
There were 27 teachers, one of whom, Annie King, went as a missionary to China. There she was martyred. Annie now resides in a much better place, where she has without doubt received the Martyr’s Crown promised by our Savior to all who are murdered for His Name’s sake.* Getting back to our weekend, the Ragged School building is now shared on different days by two churches, one of which (the evangelical church) invited us to visit. Since Britain is in spiritual darkness, the church has only about 25 members – a far cry from the crowds who filled the churches in Victorian times. Our hosts were David and Julie Boyden, a delightful couple who serve the Lord by making Christian films, DVDs etc, as well as leading worship and doing all sorts of work at the church. Anyone interested in having a Christian conference or other event filmed can contact David’s company, Two By Two Worship Limited, by email: email@example.comOr phone them on their office line, 01246 202491.
The people ‘oop north’ have their own way of speaking, including a very touching way of referring to their children. They put the pronoun ‘our’ before the names of their sons and daughters, as: ‘Our Laura gave us that.’ It started me thinking that that is how we describe ‘our’ Lord Jesus, as ‘Our Lord’, and I wonder if that may be how He thinks of each of us who believes in Him.
It was a real privilege to meet the saints in Chesterfield, and, as Alan told them at the Sunday service, Christians are remarkably similar wherever we go. There is a family resemblance and it’s nothing to do with race or nationality, age or appearance. There is just that special something running through – that we all worship the same Lord and He has made us all part of His great family.
I’ve been in that family now since the evening in January, 1981, when I repented of my sins and begged the Lord to forgive me and let me be one of His people. I’m still amazed that He would accept even me! The thing is – Christ died for sinners; He didn’t die for good people, because there really are none. Not one person is good enough. He’ll accept you too, dear friend, if you put your trust in Him. Why be lonely and sad, why live in fear in these dreary times? A whole new world of faith opens, once you know Jesus Christ as your Savior. You might think you will have to give something up, but the truth is that everything belongs to Him anyway. You could not take one more breath if He didn’t allow it. Anything you do have to give up is like a piece of stinking dirt compared to the wonders of the new life you gain. It is so exciting to be a believer in Jesus. I often think, ‘How boring and pointless so much of life was before I believed.’ It’s not boring now! Who could be bored serving the King of kings, learning more about Him every day, moving closer each day to the time when you will actually see Him!
During the weekend Alan told the people about the money crash, which is still happening; the coming one world government, and that we have to be ready to help each other and also reach out to other people as the times get tougher.
We met some wonderful Christians up north, like Phil Elvidge from Rotherham, who works with Street Life Support, trying to help the deaf, the homeless and the druggies. They are trying to raise £3,000 to buy a bus to aid in this work. Anyone who would like to help can contact them on email at firstname.lastname@example.org or ring Phil on 0799 0994039 and any checks should be payable to Street-Life Support. Send them c/o Alan Wigglesworth, 40 Brecks Crescent, Brecks, Rotherham S65 3HZ, U.K.
Then there was a dear couple, Reg and Jean, who, at very short notice, opened their hearts and their home and produced a magnificent salad lunch for about 10 or 12 people. What a happy time we all had. One good thing about many Christian gatherings – you don’t need a glass of wine to get a buzz or to get the conversation going! The buzz is already built in.
I can’t finish this article without mentioning Barry and Anna from the Isle of Wight, who were also enjoying the weekend in Chesterfield. They met through a Christian pen pal organization. ‘I put an advert in and six ladies wrote to me,’ said Barry. ‘Anna was dying of cancer and she was the only one who was really excited about the Lord.’
Not only did Anna not die, but she is fine now and they are happily married. Prayer changes things! Plus, as she will tell everyone who will listen, the Lord gave her the gift of piano playing! ‘I always wanted to be able to play, but I just couldn’t get it to flow and couldn’t read music. So one day I just sat at the piano and asked Him to help me play and I gave Him my hands. He just took over and now I can play. I look and see, oh dear, four flats on that one, shouldn’t be a problem for Him…and I just play it.’ Anna treated us all to many hymns and choruses on the pipe organ and also the piano of the Ragged School Church, and very jolly it all was! I sat next to her part of the time to watch her fingers and see her technique, and actually, she prayed over my hands. I too have struggled to play and consider myself a total failure in the piano department. Watch this space…
A final word about that crooked spire on the other church in town. It is crooked because it was built in the 14th century of unseasoned oak. As the oak dried out, it began to pull and bend the whole spire. The builders of that day would have been mortified to think that their masterpiece would soon start to bend and twist. They used the wrong material!
It reminds me of the warning the Lord Jesus gave about our service on earth, that everything we do here will be tested at the end and all that was done for the wrong motives (of self glorification or whatever) will be burnt up like wood, hay and stubble - and only the things we really did for Him will be left as gold, silver and precious stones.
What materials are you building with in your life, dear friend? If you have used a lot of wood, hay and stubble, you can change all that today and start doing things for Jesus, ‘our Jesus’, things that may not make you popular down here, but will be revealed as gold, silver and precious stones in the day when all our works are tried and tested.
*As for crowns, there are a few crowns we can aim at – one for elders (men only for this one); one for evangelizing (anyone can try to win this crown); one for self control (ditto); one for those who are happy at the appearing of the Lord the day He returns (that is the one I really want most of all); and of course the Martyr’s Crown.