Contents

Confession of Faith

The following Articles were drawn up in the Centennial Year of the Church 2003. Their purpose is to confirm our continued commitment to that faith once revealed in Scripture and reaffirmed at the time of the Protestant Reformation.

They are set out also with the purpose that, the Lord being our helper, we may continue to worship Him with holy reverence, and conduct all our services with precise obedience to His appointment, decently and in order. We would further seek the Lord's help at this time to continue in holy love towards Him and towards one another, and to preach the Gospel in our day and generation.

STATEMENT OF FAITH

Article 1: HOLY SCRIPTURE

The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, in all their parts and in every word as originally written, are given by inspiration of God, Who so directed holy men of old that they wrote precisely what He intended. They are the sole, sufficient, necessary and infallible authority in all matters of faith and practice.

Is 8:20; Luke 16:29-31; Rom 15:4; Eph 2:20; 2 Tim 3:15-17; Heb 1:1; 2Pet 1:20-21

Article 2: GOD AND THE HOLY TRINITY

There is one God, Who is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth; and Who alone is the proper object of worship. In the Godhead there are three co-equal and co-eternal Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son. This God is the sovereign creator and maintainer of all things.

Gen 17:1; Ex 34:6-7; Deut 6:4; 1 Kings 8:27; Ps 90:2 & 148:13; John 5:26, 14:11 & 15:26; Acts 15:8; Rom 11:34-36; 1 Tim 1:17; Heb 4:13; Rev 5:12-14.

Article 3: THE DIVINE DECREE

God has decreed all that comes to pass, purely according to the good pleasure of His will and for His glory. This is in such a way that He is not the author of sin nor is violence done to the will of the creature. By this decree He has predestinated certain persons to eternal life appointing thereby the means of salvation for this innumerable multitude. Those persons not thus chosen have been sovereignly left in sin to their just condemnation.

Num 23:19; Is 46:9-10; Luke 10:20; John 5:26 ; Acts 4:27-28 & 15:18; Rom 8:30, 9:11-23 & 11:5-6; Eph 1:4-11; 1 Thess 1:4-5 & 5:9-10; 1 Tim 5:21; 2 Tim 2:19; James 1:13; 1 Pet 1:2-5.

Article 4: CREATION

In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom and goodness, to create or make the world and all things in it both visible and invisible, in the space of six days and all was very good. After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasoning and immortal souls, rendering them fit to live that life for Him for which they were created; being made in the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts and having the power to fulfil it; and yet living under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change.

Gen 1:1, 26-28 & 2:7,17 & 3:6; John 1:2-3; Acts 17:24-28; Rom 1:20 & 2:14-15; Col 1:16.

Article 5: DIVINE PROVIDENCE

God the good Creator of all things, in His infinite power and wisdom, upholds, directs, disposes and governs all creatures and things, from the greatest to the least by His most wise and holy providence, to the end for which they were created.

God governs according to His infallible foreknowledge and the free and unchanging council of His own will; for the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, boundless goodness, and mercy.

Gen 8:22; Ps 107:7; Prov 16:33; Matt 6:28-30; Acts 2:23; Rom 8:32; Phil 4:19.

Article 6: THE FALL

Our first parents were created upright, but by one man, Adam, sin entered into the world, and death by sin. This original transgression was imputed to all mankind and judgement came upon all men to condemnation. All the descendants of Adam, having a carnal mind at enmity with God, are unable and unwilling to obey, believe in or love God, being entirely spiritually impotent. Man's inability, being sinful, in no way excuses his failure to obey God's just commands.

Gen 2:15-17 & 3:12-13; Ps 51:5; Rom 3:23, 5:12, 6:20-21, 7:18-25 & 8:7; Eph 2:3; Titus 1:15; Heb 2:14-15; James 1:14-15.

Article 7: THE COVENANT OF GRACE

In order to save His elect from their fallen condition, God the Father entered into an eternal covenant with His Son, Who was appointed Mediator of this Covenant. Through Him, these persons are chosen unto salvation, predestinated unto the adoption of children, saved, called with an holy calling, created unto good works and given eternal life.

Gen 3:15, 21; 2 Sam 23:5; Ps 25:14 & 89:3-4; Is 54:9-10; Jer 31:31-34 & 32:40; Eph 1:4; Heb 6:17-19 & 13:20-21.

Article 8: THE PERSON OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternally begotten Son of God, Who took the finite body and human soul of man into union with His eternal Divine nature. By the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, this holy and sinless human nature was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary so that, in due time, He was born truly man, and yet eternally God, now together in one Person never to be divided.

Prov 8:23; Is 7:14; Matt 1:23; John 1:14 & 18; Gal 4:4-5; Phil 2:5-8; Heb 1:5; 2 John 3.

Article 9: THE WORK OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

The Lord Jesus Christ lived in dependence upon His Father here on earth doing His will. He actively fulfilled all the requirements of the holy law of God. At last suffering, bleeding and dying as the Substitute in the place of His chosen people, He endured in His holy Person all the righteous indignation and wrath of God against the sin of these people, being made sin for them, Who knew no sin, that they might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Being the first-fruits of them that slept He rose triumphant over the grave as the same real man, and with that glorious body He ascended to the right hand of the Father, there to make intercession for all who would come unto God by Him.

Ps 40:6-8; Is 53:12; John 1:14 & 8:29; Rom 4:25, & 8:1-4,34; 1 Cor 15:3; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 4:4: Eph 1:7 & 5:2; Heb 7:22,25 & 12:24; 1 Pet 3:18.

Article 10: REGENERATION

Regeneration is a sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit whereby the elect are quickened out of spiritual death into spiritual life. They being wholly passive are born again by the Word of God.

Ezek 36:26 & 27; John 1:13 & 3:6-7; Rom 8:9-11; Gal 4:6; Eph 1:18 & 2:1; Phil 2:13; James 1:18; 1 Pet 1:3.

Article 11: EFFECTUAL CALLING

Those whom God predestinated unto eternal life are irresistibly called by the Holy Spirit through the Word from a state of death in sin to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ. Being convinced of their ruined state and need they are brought by the same Spirit to repent of their sin, to forsake trust in all else, and to rely on Christ alone as their Saviour and Lord.

Deut 30:6; Ps 110:3; Is 43:1; John 15:16; Rom 1:7 & 8:30; 1 Cor 1:2; Eph 1: 18-20 & 2:1-6; 2 Tim 1: 9.

Article 12: JUSTIFICATION

Those who are effectually called, God justifies by forgiving their sins and imputing the righteousness of Christ to them without consideration of any of their works. Through faith, which is the gift of God, they believe in Christ Jesus that they might be justified by Him. Their faith is the means of reception of justification and is not to be regarded as a work, nor the ground of it, which is the merit of Christ alone.

Ps 32:5; Mic 7:18; Luke 5:20; Rom 3:24,26,28, 4:5-8 & 8:30-32; 1 Cor 1:30-31; 2 Cor 6:18; Gal 3:8-9 & 5:6; Phil 3:8-9; Heb 10:14; 1 John 1:7; Rev 7:14.

Article 13: ADOPTION

God has guaranteed that in Christ, His only begotten Son, and for His sake, all those who are justified shall be made partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number of the children of God and enjoy their liberties and privileges. They have His name put upon them and receive the spirit of adoption. They have access to the throne of grace with boldness, and are enabled to cry 'Abba Father!' They are the recipients of God's compassionate love, protected, provided for, and chastened by Him as a Father, yet they are never cast off, but are sealed to the day of redemption when they inherit the promises as heirs of everlasting salvation.

Prov 14:26; John 1:12; Rom 8:15; 2 Cor 6:17-18; Gal 4:6; Eph 1:5; Heb 12:5-6.

Article 14: SAVING FAITH

The grace of faith by which the elect are enabled to believe, so that their souls are saved is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is normally brought into being by the ministry of the Word. It is also increased and strengthened by the work of the Spirit through the ministry of the Word and also by the administration of baptism and the Lord's supper, prayer and other means appointed by God. By this faith a Christian believes to be true whatever is revealed in the Word of God. By this same faith a Christian is enabled to cast his soul upon the truth he has believed. Saving faith equips him to perceive and obey the commands, hear the threatenings with fear and respect, and to embrace the promises of God for this life and the life to come.

The first and most important acts of saving faith are those directly to do with Christ when the soul believes, receives, and rests upon Him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.

Ps 19:7-10; Is 66:2; Luke 17:5; John 1:12, 14 & 15; Rom 10:14-17; 2 Cor 4:13; Eph 2:8 & 6:16; 1 Thess 1:3; 2 Tim 1:12; Heb 11:6,13 & 12:2; Jam 2:24-26; 2 Pet 1:1.

Article 15: REPENTANCE AND SALVATION

Saving repentance is an evangelical grace by which a person who is made to feel, by the Holy Spirit, the manifold evils of his sin, and being given faith in Christ, humbles himself over his sin with godly sorrow, detestation of his sin, and self-abhorrence. In such repentance the person also prays for pardon and strength of grace, and has a purpose and endeavour by supplies of the Spirit's power to walk before God and to totally please Him in all things.

Ps 119:6; Ezek 18:30 & 36:31; Zech 12:10; Matt 4:17; Mark 1:15 & 6:12; Luke 13:3-5; Acts 2:37-39, 8:22 & 17:30.

Article 16: GOOD WORKS

Good works are only those works which God has commanded in His holy Word. Good works, performed in obedience to God's commands are the fruits and evidences of a true and living faith. By these believers express and show their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the Gospel, and glorify God whose workmanship they are; created in Christ Jesus to perform good works. Their ability to do these good works does not in any way come from themselves but comes from the Spirit of Christ.

Ps 116:12-13; Mic 6:8; Matt 5:16 & 7:16-20; Eph 2:10; 1 Tim 6:1; James 2:18-22; 1 John 2:3-5.

Article 17: FINAL PERSEVERANCE

All those in whom the Holy Spirit has begun a good work shall be brought safely through life into glory in spite of all their temptations, trials, sins and weaknesses. They shall persevere in the ways of God, and, enduring to the end, shall be saved.

Ps 89:33-34; Jer 32:40; Mal 3:6; John 10:28-29 & 17:24; Rom 5:9-10 & 8:30; Heb 6:17-18 & 10:23; I Pet 1:5; 1 John 3:9.

Article 18: ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

This assurance is not merely a conjectural persuasion nor even a probable persuasion based upon a fallible hope. It is an infallible hope. It is an infallible assurance of faith founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel. It is also founded upon the inward evidence of those graces of the Spirit in connection with definite promises made in the Scriptures, and also on the testimony of the Spirit of adoption Who witnesses with our spirits that we are the children of God, and Who uses the experience of assurance to keep our hearts both humble and holy.

This infallible assurance is not so joined to the essence of faith that it is an automatic and inevitable experience. A true believer may wait long and fight many difficulties before he becomes a partaker of it. Yet, being enabled by God, he may, without any extraordinary revelation attain this assurance using the means of grace in the right way.

Job 8:13-14; Is 50:10; John 4:13,14; Rom 5:1-5; Heb 6:15-16; 1 John 2:3 & 3:1-3.

Article 19: THE LAW OF GOD

The Law of God is an eternal rule of Righteousness, and in the hand of Christ it is the rule of our moral conduct. It is our solemn responsibility to seek grace to live according to the Law striving after holiness of life. Scripture teaches a threefold purpose of the Law i.e.

  • 1. The Law is used by the Holy Spirit in Conversion to show us our need of the Saviour.
  • 2. It is the Rule of the believer's life and shows what blessings they may experience when the Law is kept.
  • 3. The Law is intended to be a restraining influence upon unbelievers.

The aforementioned uses of the Law are not contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but they sweetly comply with it, as the Spirit of Christ subdues and enables the will of man to do freely and cheerfully those things which the will of God, which is revealed in the Law, requires to be done.

Ezek 36:27; Rom 6:12-14; 1 Cor 9:8-10 ; Gal 3: 21; Heb 12:28; James2:8.

Article 20: BAPTISM

Baptism is a perpetual appointment by Jesus Christ for those who believe the Gospel. It is to be administered by immersion in water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost to such as profess their faith in Him. It sets forth the sufferings and death of Christ, the believer's union to Him in those sufferings and the effect of that union in the washing away of sin, death to the old life, and a desire to walk in newness of life. The only persons who can rightly submit themselves to this ordinance are those who actually profess repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, being willing to yield obedience to Him.

Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; Rom 6:3-5; Gal 3:27; Col 2:12.

Article 21: THE LORD'S SUPPER.

The Lord commanded His disciples to remember Him in the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine until His return. This ordinance sets forth His broken body and poured out blood in the symbols of bread and wine in which the Lord graciously assures us, His followers, that His body was broken for them, and His blood is the seal of the New Testament. When received by faith this bread and wine are the communion of the body and blood of Christ, and we, being many, are one body. This ordinance is to be observed by those who profess, and live by faith in the Son of God, and who have been Scripturally baptised and added to the church.

Matt 7:6, 26:26-28; 1 Cor 10:16-21, 11:23-26; 2 Cor 6:14-15; Heb 9:25-28.

Article 22: MAN'S STATE AFTER DEATH AND THE RESURRECTION

The bodies of men after death return to dust, and undergo corruption, but their souls neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence/ existence, immediately return to God Who gave them.

The souls of the righteous then made perfect in holiness, are received into paradise where they are with Christ, and look upon the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies.

The souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torment and under darkness, reserved to the judgement of the great day. The Scripture acknowledges no other place than these two for the souls separated from their bodies.

At the Last Day, those of the saints who are still alive shall not sleep but shall be changed. All the dead shall be raised up with their own, same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, and these bodies shall be united again to their souls forever.

The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonour.

The bodies of the just shall by His spirit be raised to honour, and made conformable to His own glorious body.

Gen 3:19; Job 19:26-27 Ecc. 12.7; Luke 23:43; Acts 24:15; 1 Cor 15:42-43, 51-52; Jude 6-7.

Article 23: THE LAST JUDGEMENT

God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ, to Whom all power and judgement is given by the Father. In this day not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but also all people who have lived upon the earth. They shall appear before the Tribunal of Christ to give an account of their thoughts, words and deeds, and to receive according to what they have done when in the body, whether good or evil.

As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there will be a day of judgement, both to deter all men from sin and to give greater consolation to the godly in their adversity, so also He will have the date of that day kept unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security and always be watchful because they know not at what hour the Lord may come.

Also so that believers may be affected in such a way that they ever say 'Even so come Lord Jesus, Amen'.

Matt 25:21-34,46; Mark 13:35-37; John 5:22:27; Acts 17:31; Rom 9:22-23; 2Cor 5:10-11; 2 Thess 1:5-7; Rev 22:20.

APPENDIX

The purpose of the church is to glorify God by promoting His worship, declaring His Word in its entirety, building up His people in their holy faith, obeying His perfect Moral Law and extending His kingdom throughout the world.

Acts 20:27; Rom 15:16; 2 Cor 5:20; Eph 3:2; Phil 3:3; 1 Thess 5:11;

This church rejects the influence of the Charismatic Movement because it teaches an unscriptural post- conversion experience that belittles the great work of regeneration; claims extra-biblical revelation through miraculous gifts undermining the absolute sufficiency of Scripture; restores extraordinary and temporal offices without regard to their essential qualifications; advocates the need for signs and wonders, associated in Scripture with new revelation; elevates experience above doctrine, encourages a subtle form of ecumenism; promotes a new kind of liberty, incompatible with holy living; and encourages irreverent and unscriptural worship, accommodating worldly carnality.

Ex 4:1-5; Ps 5: 7; Is 8:20; Matt 5:17,18; Mk 1:27; Lk 6:13; Jn 1:33; Acts 1:22; 1 Cor 11:22; 2 Cor 11:1-4; 2 Tim 4: 1,2; Heb 12:28.

Ebenezer Centenary 1903-2003

The Centenary History of Ebenezer Chapel, Station Rd, Old Hill

Origins are elusive things, and the decision regarding where to begin a story is always difficult. The Church here at Ebenezer began on October 6th 1902. However we would have to go back more than a hundred years prior to this to trace our true antecedents and origins, and indeed hundreds of years to trace our lineage as Baptists. A brief survey of Church history reveals that Baptists have existed throughout the years, though for many centuries that existence bore the character of an underground movement. We might for instance quote the example of one Peter de Bruys, living in the South of France at the close of the 11th century. He preached the evangelical doctrine of repentance and faith, and maintained that personal faith was a necessary prerequisite for valid baptism. His followers were known as Petrobrusians. Likewise in the 11th and 12 centuries many Waldensians were of Baptist persuasion. Their contemporaries, the Cathari in Germany, clearly taught that baptism should be delayed until individuals come to years of discretion and that even then, only those who profess personal faith in Christ ought to be baptised. It is by no means improbable that in our own country some of the Lollards of the 14th and 15th centuries held Baptist views. Dr Evans, in his History of Early English Baptists cites the following evidence for this,

I have now before me a manuscript register of Gray, Bishop of Ely (1454 – 1479), which proves that in the year 1457, there was a congregation of this sort (Baptist) in this village, Chesterton... who privately assembled for divine worship, and had preachers of their own, who taught them the very doctrines which we now preach. Six of them were accused of heresy... and condemned to do penance, half naked with a faggot at their backs and a taper in their hands, in the public market place of Ely and Cambridge, and in the churchyard of Great Swaffam.

Whilst modern day Baptists would not subscribe to every article believed by the above groups, it is clear that those holding to Baptist principles have existed right through the ages.

Origins of Baptists in the Black Country

The oldest Baptist Church in England in the modern sense is said to have been that of High Cliff, near Warrington in Cheshire, founded in 1522. The oldest Baptist Church in the Black Country of which there is any record was that known as Messiah or Cinder Bank Chapel, which until the early 1980s stood just off the main road between Netherton and Dudley, the graveyard of which can still be seen. The origins of this church are lost in antiquity, but what is significant is the known presence of Dutch and other Continental Anabaptist refugees in the area during the early 17th century. Some of these were associated with the glass industry such as Jan Pieters (alias Downing) the Garrets, the Cookseys and the Du Thisackes. This anglicized becomes the familiar name, Detheridge. We might also mention the Collinges who became the Collins, Continental Calvinistic Baptists who settled in Halesowen at that time.

The Messiah Church, like so many other non-conformist causes in the 17th and 18th centuries suffered a great deal of persecution, yet by God’s mercy survived. Respite was given at the time of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, and later after the The Bill of Rights was passed in 1689, under William of Orange. However some persecution of the Netherton congregation continued into the 18th Century. The original chapel at Baptist End was burned down by the High Church Party during the Sacheverell Riots of 1715, necessitating the removal of the chapel to its later site on the Dudley -Netherton road. This later Chapel was also damaged during the Priestley riots of 1791.

The significance of this Church cannot be overestimated. It is said that practically every Baptist chapel within a ten-mile radius of Netherton, can trace its origins in some way back to it. In 1750, members of the Netherton Church formed the work at Dudley. In 1798 others commenced the work at Brierley Hill , and later in that same year a small number from Brierley Hill, together with yet others from Messiah formed the work at Cradley. At this time, Mr Best was the minister of the Independent Chapel in Cradley and took his congregation back into the Church of England, forming the Church which is now known as St Peter’s Parish Church, Cradley. A number of those not wishing to conform to the Established Church, joined the newly formed Baptist congregation. (The original minute book of the Baptist congregation is a continuation of the book which formerly belonged to the Independent Chapel, containing membership lists for both the Independent Congregation and the Baptists). In 1796 members of the Netherton and Dudley churches together formed the work at Darkhouse, Coseley and in 1810 established the work at Sweet Turf, Netherton.

Another important influence in the establishing of Baptist churches in this area was the calling of Samuel Pierce M.A. to the pastorate of Cannon Street Chapel Birmingham in 1790. Pearce was later to become one of the founding fathers of the Baptist Missionary Association, and showed himself no less concerned for mission at home, than for mission overseas. Under his influence, Sunday Schools were established and a fund set up for the encouragement of preaching in out-lying villages and towns. For an example of this, we might quote from a letter written to Dr Ryland in December 1798, where he says, ‘I have been almost wholly occupied in the concerns of the (I hope) reviving Church at Bromsgrove, and the infant Church at Cradley’.

The Rev George Barrs of Rowley Regis

A most significant event of this period which was destined to have lasting influence on the spiritual life of the district, was the settlement of the Reverend George Barrs as incumbent of Rowley Parish Church in May 1800.

The following account of his coming to Rowley is taken from A Brief Memoir of the life of George Barrs prepared by his son in 1879.

On Sunday, 17th March, 1799, he was ordained Deacon in Ely Cathedral, and the same evening delivered his first sermon in Trinity Church, Cambridge, from Hosea 5 verse 4, ‘They will not frame their doings to turn to God’, and soon after took charge of the curacy of Warham, All Saints, in the County of Norfolk, and faithfully preached the gospel there upwards of twelve months. Here the hand of Providence was visible. His friend, and as he termed him, his spiritual father, the Reverend Mr Hemmington, accidentally hearing of the vacancy at Rowley Regis wrote to him. He resolved on coming over. When this determination was known, the following Sunday evening nearly 100 of the congregation at Warham addressed a memorial to the vicar, urging him to prevent, if possible, such a step; but God had work for him to do at Rowley and therefore he 'must needs go there'.

He arrived late in the evening of Saturday 8th May 1800, and the next day preached twice in the Church, and in the evening in a large school room in a distant part of the parish. (This was probably at Reddal Hill.) His first sermon from Judges 3 verse 20 ‘I have a message from God unto thee’, was heard with general satisfaction, and referred to by many with delight to the latest hour of their lives. In his own words, ‘the desire for my staying at Rowley seems pretty general’.

The Reverend George Barrs was clearly a Calvinist of the old school.

Free and sovereign grace, Unconditional election, man’s total apostasy, the absolute necessity of the new birth, salvation by Christ entirely and alone, justification by faith, a life in the flesh of faith in the Son of God, evidenced by its fruits, and the security and final perseverance of God's chosen; all in the full scope and true sense of the Articles and Formularies of our Scriptural and incomparable, but abused and perverted, National Church, were the doctrines which formed the theme of his discourse, and the delight of his soul.

Married to Mary, the widow of the late John Haden of Haden Hill, the two worked tirelessly in the parish for forty years. The Parish during these long years was transformed from a place of profanity and drunkenness, to a place of godliness and piety.

Bowling Green Chapel

At this point we might mention an historical conundrum, in relation to the founding of the Baptist cause at Spring Meadow, out of which our church was later to be formed. According to Idris Williams in the Centenary Souvenir of the Four Ways Baptist Church, Cradley Heath, the Bowling Green Church was formed from the Cradley Church, Joseph Smith being sent out from that Church to be its pastor. In favour of this opinion, we may note that the Cradley Church at this time was passing through a period of great difficulty in relation to their pastor's changed theological position.

In November 1832 Jabez Tunnicliff (1808-1864) accepted an invitation to minister at Cradley. A native of Wolverhampton, he had been ‘set apart for ministerial office’ at Shifnal in December 1829. His letter of invitation to Cradley was signed by James England, Benjamin Fellows and Samuel Hingley. Tunnicliff’s ministry resulted in a great upheaval in the life of the Church, in that he underwent a change in his theological stance. He found that he could no longer support the Calvinistic doctrine of absolute predestination and irresistible grace. The circumstances in which this change of heart came about are recorded in the Centenary Souvenir of Four Ways Baptist Church as follows:

One day whilst in the pulpit and in the presence of a large congregation he had occasion to read the eighth chapter of The Acts of the Apostles, when he came to verse 22 and read, ‘Repent therefore, of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee; for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.’ He stopped; his Calvinism had received a stroke from which he never recovered. He looked again at the words. The question rushed upon him. What? Tell a man dead in sins to repent and pray? One who is in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity? He stood speechless before the crowd, lost in confusion.

Idris Williams p10. quoted by Bradley and Blunt in A History of Cradley Churches

What Mr Tunnicliff appears to have been rejecting were not the doctrines of Calvinism as generally understood today ,but rather those of hyper-Calvinism.

The Cradley minute book records:

From 24th February 1833 - November 19th, we have had several Church meetings to consider our painful circumstances, when at the last meeting it was decided to give Mr Tunnicliff regular notice to leave.

Jabez Tunnicliff left and took with him 34 members of the congregation who became the founder members of the General Baptist Church at Four Ways, Cradley Heath. Later in life he removed to Leeds where he became the founder of the well-known temperance movement, The Band of Hope.

It is not unlikely that due to the disruptions at Cradley, Joseph Smith and others left to form the Church at Bowling Green.

One of the Cradley minutes does speak of members being transferred to the work at Bowling Green on 5th May 1834.

At a Church meeting held on the 5th May Brother Joseph Smith and Sister Mary Ward were dismissed from us to the Church at Bowling Green.

A Joseph Smith and his wife Olivet were members of Cradley Chapel at that time, and we know from the tombstone in Spring Meadow that Joseph Smith’s first wife was named Olive or Olivet.

According however to Mr Ralph Chambers’ book, The Strict Baptist Chapels of England, Volume Four states:

Mr Smith, like Mr Matthews of Rowley, had been called by grace under the ministry of the Reverend G. Barrs, and had also ‘searched the Scriptures when Mr Barrs opposed believers baptism’, only to find it clearly taught in the Word of God.

The result was that he, with a few others, met together for worship in a small warehouse at Bowling Green in 1829, and in 1833 were constituted a Strict Baptist Church, appointing Joseph Smith as pastor. One possible way of reconciling these accounts is to say that Joseph Smith was a member of the Cradley Chapel and at the same time came under the influence of Rev George Barrs. The Cradley Chapel and St. Peter’s Parish Church are literally only yards apart, and the parsons Barrs and Best were related to each other as well as being one in their theological opinions. It is also known that Joseph Smith attended the Reddal Hill School which was under the responsibility of Rev George Barrs. In a sermon printed in the Gospel Standard July 1874, we read the following short autobiographical note:

I will tell you how it was with me. The Lord quickened my dead soul, and laid the guilt and burden of sin upon me. I could not take comfort in the society of my companions, those among whom I used to meet. My father was a Churchman. I used to go to the Church School; but I did not love the school at all. That makes me so much more ignorant than I should have been. Once I remember I came home and told my father I had been to school when I had not. By and by the Lord Jehovah was pleased to visit my soul.

The note however does not tell us which church he then attended.

Spring Meadow Chapel

The following account of the formation of the Spring Meadow Chapel is taken from the Centenary Commemoration Booklet 1941.

In the year 1829 a few people who loved the precious truths of the Gospel met for worship in a small warehouse at Bowling Green, near Old Hill, which they rented, and in 1833 a church consisting of six of them was formed on Strict Baptist principles, Mr Joseph Smith being appointed the pastor. The truth was faithfully preached by him, and the Lord abundantly blessed the word to many souls, and as the Church and congregation increased, the place was too small for them, and enlargements became necessary from time to time. Eventually land was purchased at Spring Meadow, on which the present chapel was built, at a cost of £591-16s-6d., and opened in 1841, still under the pastorate of Mr Joseph Smith. The people generally were very poor, and the debt on the Chapel caused much difficulty for them; but by the help of the Lord in the year 1849 the debt had been reduced to £300.. In 1864 the present school and gallery were added, to accommodate the increased number of scholars which cost £210, and was another burden. The Gospel however was much blessed, and the cause of God prospered, so that in 1875 the debt stood at £70. At this time, to the great grief of all, the late F. W. G Barrs Esq, J P., who was the mortgagor and for many years a constant hearer and a lover of the truths preached at Spring Meadow, was removed by death. Just before his decease he arranged for the title deeds to be delivered to the trustees free of charge, which was a cause of rejoicing to the Church. The beloved pastor Joseph Smith, was called to his eternal rest in 1873, and for seven years ministers were engaged as supplies for the pulpit.

In regard to the initial debt on the chapel, some idea of the burden of anxiety this caused the people can be gauged by the fact that it is still remembered today that if a well dressed stranger appeared in the vicinity of the chapel, the folk would become alarmed in case his visit was in connection with the debt. It must be remembered that in those days many men worked for a whole week for less than £1 in wages. So what would seem a small matter to us was to them an enormous amount.

The Founding of Ebenezer Chapel

From this favoured cause our own beloved Church at Ebenezer began. It is generally regarded that some disagreement arose in respect to the accompanying of the hymns by a small orchestra. It is also clear that the congregation at that time had outgrown the premises at Spring Meadow. What eventually transpired was that 23 members including three deacons of the Church, together with about three quarters of the congregation then worshipping at Spring Meadow, separated themselves from the rest of the Church on 6th October 1902. On the 23rd of that same month a meeting of separated members and congregation was held in the Board Schools which still stand opposite to Old Hill Parish Church. At this meeting it was unanimously agreed to found another cause in accordance with the articles of faith of the Strict Baptist denomination and also to hire the Board Schools for Lord’s Day worship and Monday evening services. The first of these services was held on November 3rd 1902, Mr E Feazey of Leamington Spa being the preacher. A note in the Church book adds ‘Mr Feazey was obtained whenever possible afterwards’. Mr Noah Adams offered the use of his home at Haden Hill for Wednesday evening prayer meetings. It was noted ‘when prayer meetings were held, many times the goodness of the Lord was realised, for He oft fulfilled His promise, ‘where two or three are gathered together in my Name there am I in the midst’.’

A committee of ten was set apart to oversee the business of the new work, Mr J Detheridge was chairman and Mr J Tromans appointed Secretary.

On October 31st 1902 a meeting was held at the home of Mr Noah Adams for the purpose of forming a Sunday School. This was done and Mr Smith appointed as Superintendent. The first Sunday School was also held in the Board School.

Because the accommodation at the Board School was unsuitable for the long-term purposes of the work, a meeting was convened on 29th December 1902 to consider the erection of a chapel. The meeting concluded that the Lord was moving the people in this way and consequently a building fund was set up. The same meeting agreed that Gadsby’s Hymnbook should be the hymnbook of the new work. At a meeting held on February 3rd 1903, it was agreed to purchase a piece of land in Station Rd, Old Hill from Mr H Bennett, at the cost of seven shillings per yard, the total cost being £250-5s-0d.This purchase took place on April 28th 1903.

On March 26th 1903, the resigning 23 members met under the chairmanship of Mr E Feazey. At this meeting eight others who had expressed a desire of joining the church, came and told of the Lord’s dealings with them and were subsequently accepted into membership. Three of these had previously been baptised and the rest were baptised on April 16th 1903 by Mr Feasey at Temple Street Chapel,Wolverhampton . After this, the 31 individuals were joined together, thus forming the new Church, Mr Feazey again officiating.

The names of the twenty-three resigning members from Spring Meadow Chapel were as follows;

Sarah Rose, Nancy Hingley, Roseanna Cook, Rebecca Priest, Hannah Horton, Hannah Payne, Maria Darby, Hannah Timmins, Sarah A Detheridge, Prissilla Bartram, Alice Adams, William Smith, Mary Ann Tromans, Noah Adams, Emma Homer, Jeremiah Detheridge, Myra Brettle, Joseph Tromans. Thomas Willetts, Charles Cole, Elizabeth Newton, Samuel Willetts, Maria Nock.

To these were added the following at the founding of the new church in 1903.

Joseph Taylor, William Fulleylove, John Horton, Benjamin Rolinson, Maria Jane Rolinson, Benjamin Harris, Sarah Jane Fulleylove, Benjamin Taylor

On April 27th 1903, the first Church Meeting was held, presided over on this occasion by Mr J Wilcox pastor of the Strict Baptist Chapel, Frederick St., Birmingham. The following were chosen as deacons, Mr Jeremiah Detheridge, Mr Noah Adams and Mr William Smith.

Meanwhile the proceedings concerning the purchase of land in Station Rd continued and reached completion on April 28th 1903. A well known local solicitor Mr Thomas Cooksey attended to this work free of charge. Seven trustees were appointed namely, Messrs. J Detheridge, N Adams, W Smith, Jos. Tromans, B Rolinson, B Harris and B Taylor. The Chapel’s plans and specifications were drawn up and finalised on June 28th 1903.

The first Sunday School Sermons were preached while the Church continued to meet in the Board Schools. Mr Eddison of Rochdale preached on the Lord’s Day and a third sermon was preached on the Monday evening by Mr Jas. Calcott of Coventry. Collections taken at these services amounted to the sum of £77 11s, and it was agreed to transfer all but the shillings and pence to the building fund.

The Church book records,

On July 16th 1903 the foundations for the new chapel were commenced to be got out, the building of the chapel was placed in the hands of Mr Joseph Tromans of Spring Meadow, Old Hill, a member of the Church, to cost not more than £1,400.

In relation to this, subsequent tradition attributes the building of the chapel to one with the stirring name of Sampson Simpson. The explanation of this may be that Mr Simpson was the site foreman and Mr Tromans the owner of the company.

At a meeting of members and trustees on August 3rd 1903 it was agreed to call the Chapel ‘Ebenezer’ - Hitherto hath the Lord helped us’.

The foundation stones were laid on 7th September 1903 by Mr W Wilcox of Birmingham, Mr J Detheridge, senior deacon, Mr N Adams, and Mr W Smith, deacons. These commemorative stones are still visible today. A special service was held in the Board Schools on the same evening at which Mr Wilcox preached. The collections at the stone laying and at the evening service amounted to £29 -2s-2d. On November 15th 1903 the first anniversary of the founding of the cause was held, two sermons were preached by Mr Feazey on the Lord’s Day and a third on the Monday evening. Collections at these services amounted to £30.

Mr J Tromans was clearly a man of his word and the chapel was completed for the sum of £1,400 as agreed, as the Church book records, ‘to the great satisfaction of all concerned’. The opening services took place on Thursday April 28th 1904. The preacher at the afternoon service being Mr E Feazey of Leamington Spa, who took for his text Psalm 126 verse 2. In the evening Mr Picknell of Redhill, Surrey spoke from the First Book of Kings ch. 6 verses 7 - 8. These services were continued on the Lord’s Day, May 1st 1904, when Mr Picknell again spoke taking for his text Isaiah 25 verses 7-8 in the morning and, in the evening, Hebrews ch. 4 verses 14-15. The collections for the four services amounted to £102.

The Lord’s seal of blessing upon the new work seemed to come later in that year, when on November 6th as is recorded,

Through the Mercy of our Three One God, five persons were constrained to come forward and put on an open profession by being baptised, having previously come before the church and given satisfactory evidence of a work of grace upon their souls. Mr Brooker, of Tunbridge Wells baptised them and together with two more persons who had previously been members of another Church of the same faith and order were received into church fellowship by Mr Field of Croydon November 12th, 1904.

When the chapel was opened a debt of £1,000 was still outstanding. Within two years however half of that debt had been paid.

In the early part of the year 1906 our gracious God influenced the hearts of some of our friends to come to our assistance with a view to further reducing the debt. Mr and Mrs Harper made an offer of £50, if the Church and congregation would raise £100. When this became known Mr Joseph Tromans suggested that instead of making the effort for £150 we should attempt to raise £300, offering to give £25 if this was accomplished. Three more friends came forward with offers of £25 each. The rest of the Church and congregation united and worked joyfully together for the accomplishment of this object. God crowned our efforts with success and on the 19th May 1906 the Church was enabled to pay off the first portion of the debt (viz)viz£400 which had been advanced without security by four members of the building committee in equal portions of £100 each.

Throughout this period the Church continued to grow, five new members being added in 1904, nine in 1906 and eight in 1907. Their names were as follows,

1904

Joseph Brooks Alfred Tromans Ebenezer Horton Lillian Maud Harris Rhoda Tromans Hagar Tromans

1906

William Willetts (Jnr) Eli Homer Ebenezer Detheridge Phoebe Rose Eliza Taylor Catherine Groves Anne M Green

1907

Isaiah Collins William Willetts Elizabeth Smith Samuel Willetts Ann Willetts Fanny Tromans Martha Simpson

On February 17th 1909, the church faced the potentially contentious issue of whether or not to install a small organ to assist the singing. It appears that no vote was taken at this meeting; most likely the issue was left for the church to pray over and consider. A few weeks later on 10th March, the members voted in favour of the installation of an organ. The organ was purchased privately by some of the better off people, who were in favour of it. Obviously this was done in order not to inflame the feelings of those who felt strongly opposed to it. It was a Mason and Hamlin American Organ. It was installed upstairs opposite the pulpit. It is recalled that it had a beautiful tone, but was not sufficiently powerful for the size of the congregation. The singers around the organ helped to lead the people in the seats downstairs. This organ remained upstairs until the early fifties. It was then taken into the schoolroom for a while and later saw service in the chapel where the Johannus organ is now.

The same year 1909 saw the church exercised in the matter of calling a pastor.

Mr J Calcott

On August 11th 1909, the church prayerfully ventured to invite Mr J Calcott of Coventry to the pastorate. The church book reveals that Mr Calcott had been a frequent visiting minister to the church prior to this point. Mr Calcott accepted the call to Ebenezer, and commenced his labours on the first of January 1910. He was to combine the pastorate with the running of a large motor manufacturing company in the City of Coventry. Today Calcott cars are collectors’ items, an example of which can still be seen in the motor museum at Coventry. Every weekend Mr and Mrs Calcott were chauffeur-driven from Coventry to Old Hill where they lodged opposite the Chapel in the home of Mr and Mrs Philip Simpson. Mr B Harris gave the following account of the ministry of Mr J Calcott,

In the year 1909 a call was given to Mr J Calcott, of Coventry, and after a period of great spiritual exercise and wrestling in prayer, he accepted ,the Lord graciously deciding him by the powerful application of, ‘For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.’ (Zechariah VIII. 12). He commenced his labours on the first Lord’s Day in January 1910,and this highly gifted servant of the Lord Jesus Christ proved a great blessing to the church. A man of rich natural gifts, with a wide commercial experience, he brought all his powers to bear on his new responsibilities and duties. His unfailing courtesy and genial manners soon proved infectious, and were reflected in the internal order and peace of the church. His steadfast purpose from the outset of the pastorate, was to remove the remaining debt on the building; towards this object he worked with unfailing resolution, and the balance of £550, was cleared in Nov, 1914.

As a preacher of the Gospel he was widely known especially among the Northern Churches; it was said that ‘when led of the Spirit, it was a spiritual delight and inspiration to listen to him.’ To use one of his own expressions, ‘his soul was on the wing’. During his pastorate he baptised and received into membership thirty four persons, but the full fruits of his ministry were not revealed until after he was called to his eternal rest. He died on June 18th 1924, and the interment at Coventry Cemetery was a very solemn and impressive occasion. Mr G. Whitbread, of Manchester, committed his mortal remains to the grave in the presence of a great number of sorrowing relatives, members of the church and congregation, and other friends.

There can be no doubt that the coming of Mr Calcott was the Lord’s providential means of settling the work on a firm foundation as the following extract from the Church Book makes abundantly clear,

It was not by any means a bed of roses to which Mr Calcott was invited. In 1909 the initial wave of enthusiasm which had carried the friends over the initial difficulties of founding the work of God in this place had spent itself and had left them on the shores of disappointment. There was a large building debt of £550,which meant eight shillings and fivepence farthing every week had to be put aside to meet the legal liabilities before a single halfpenny could be counted on towards the expense of carrying on the work of God in this place. It was an incubus which in conjunction with other things was silently pressing the life out of the friends in charge. Also during the years preceding 1909, different ideas in respect of church government and other matters had risen up with the inevitable result that unity of purpose was lost at a time when it was essential that unity be kept. As a result of these things the finances of the Church had fallen into a very disorganised condition, that is of falling income and rising expenditure.

Such were the conditions prevailing, when God in His mercy sent a ministering angel in the person of his dear servant, and from his coming things had a turn for the better.

Ten years after the settlement of Mr Calcott, the Church held a special time of thanksgiving. In commending the pastor for his labours Mr. Ben Harris, deacon commented,

I thank God for James Calcott and all that he has been to us as a people, he is our common inheritance, God’s good gift to us.

During the years 1915-1916 provision was made for the chapel and schoolroom to be re-decorated. The following note by the Sunday School Superintendent Mr W Smith makes reference to those young men of Ebenezer who fought in the First World War.

I thought I should like to speak to those who have fought for us in this terrible war. We had a class here of nearly thirty young men, and they kept going away one by one, till the class had only one or two left. In this church many prayers were offered for them to God, to keep them and to bring them back again, if it were His heavenly will.

A reminiscence of this period we might add here concerns the remarkable stamina and spiritual appetite of the people of that time;

Some women after a day’s work in the nail shop would walk to Dudley to ‘the room’, if a minister whom they wished to hear was preaching there. Presumably this room was Tommy Pee’s chapel and it was situated not far from Eve Hill church and the present Pentecostal church. Similarly, some men would walk to Robert Street, Gornal, for the evening service of a Sunday School Anniversary day. Mrs Rose John and George Rose’s mother was known to walk from her home in Haden Hill to her son Moses’ house in Wolverhampton, do the washing for her daughter-in -law, who was an invalid, and walk home the same night. No doubt there were ‘short cuts’ in those days.

Mr A E McMillar

Mr A E McMillar of Tunbridge Wells succeeded Mr Calcott and commenced his labours on January 1st 1925. Mr McMillar was an able preacher and gathered large congregations every Lord’s Day. A selection of his sermons was printed by C J Farncombe and Sons Ltd. London. One tragic event from the time of Mr McMillar’s ministry, still remembered by some today, was the death of two young members of the Men’s Bible Class, William Bennett aged 23 and William Parsons aged 22, within a day of each other. Their coffins lay in either aisle of the chapel overnight prior to the funeral service. The Church Book records the many additions made to the church during this period,

From the commencement of Mr McMillar’s ministry, additions to the church followed in a remarkable way. Eight persons were baptised on May 13th 1925, four on November 11th, three on May 12th 1926, one on June 6th, one on February 6th 1927, one on July 17th, three on February 22nd 1928, three on March 4th,one on August 8th, three on November 3rd 1929.

Sadly, trouble arose between Mr. McMillar and his church. It is unlikely that any-one living remembers these sad events, at first hand. One thing is certain. There was much distress, no matter on which side of the quarrel individuals found themselves. The matter was resolved with the ending of Mr McMillar’s pastorate in June 1930. Until his death some years later, he preached from time to time in some of the other local chapels, although he no longer lived in Old Hill It seems that he did not take up another pastorate.

Mr E G Rowell

In 1938 the Church was once again moved to call a pastor. Subsequently, Mr E G Rowell took up the work on the first Lord’s Day of 1939. The Church Book records the Settlement Service in the following words,

Welcome services were held on April 12th 1939, at which friends gathered from far and near so that the chapel was crowded and many felt the season to be one of profit and blessing. Mr A Light preached at the afternoon service, and at the evening meeting presided. Mr Noah Adams (senior deacon) read a Psalm. Mr Joseph Taylor( deacon) engaged in prayer and addresses were given by Mr B Harris (deacon), Mr E G Rowell, Mr A Mackenzie, Mr W. F. Goodchild, Mr F L Rowell and Mr L.W. Falkner. The meeting closed with prayer by Mr T Cole and followed by the singing of the Doxology.

Later in the year of Mr Rowell’s induction, the Second World War broke out. The Church Book records no details of the effects of the war upon the life of the chapel, except that a special fund was set up ‘for the purpose of providing comforts for any of our young men who may be 'called to the colours'.This work seems to have been headed up by Mrs E G Rowell.

The formation of a ladies’ working party soon after war broke out, for the provision of knitted comforts for the ‘boys’, was a great pleasure to her, especially as a branch of the Aged Pilgrims Friend Society was incorporated at the same time, a cause always near her heart. The keenness of the ‘workers’ was a source of real satisfaction to her happiness in the work.

Special prayer meetings were held, as a note in the minutes of the church meeting 29th August 1945 indicates,

That the special prayer meeting for the nation be continued owing to the war in the Far East, on Friday evenings in the Summer and Saturday evenings in the winter.

During the war years, the main Lord’s Day evening services were moved to the Sunday afternoon because of blackout regulations. Evening services were continued in the schoolroom for those who were able to get out. Not only were most men of military age away, but those who remained were subject to war-time regulations. People could be directed to a particular factory and war work could involve seven days a week production. No doubt workers had their rest days, but they had duties like fire-watching and possibly membership of the Home Guard to attend to. Such duties and the blackout must have affected chapel attendance. The Sunday School New Year Treats were not able to be held during this difficult period.

One cause of great thankfulness at this time was that all those who were called into the Armed Forces returned safely. Sadly however, not all those who returned resumed worship at the chapel. On February 21st 1942, Mrs. E.G Rowell ‘passed into the presence of her Redeemer’. She was a most gracious lady, deeply missed by her husband, children and church.

Mr Rowell’s ministry also saw the passing of some of the founding fathers of the Church; Mr Noah Adams, senior deacon and treasurer, in 1939; Mr Ben Harris, secretary of the Church, in 1949; and Mr E Detheridge, who had joined the church in 1906 and served as secretary, in 1950. The details regarding the home call of Mr Noah Adams are worth recording. Mr Adams loved the Sabbath. He always arrived at the same time as the caretaker, Mr Green, before the morning Sunday School, in order that, as he said, ‘The Sabbath could be as long as possible’. On the last day of his earthly pilgrimage he arrived at the chapel early as usual. That night he went home and died in his sleep, his last Sabbath on earth was in fact the beginning of his eternal Sabbath in Glory.

Another anecdote that could be added here would be that of a member who has been dead more than fifty years. He used to arrive in good time, saying, ‘You can’t be too early at a good market’.

After the War the time came when it was necessary to carry out repair work on the Chapel building. On June 9th 1948 it was agreed to accept the tender of Messrs J Parkes and Sons for the complete renovation of the property at a cost of £350. In 1953 after a legacy of £357-7s-11d. had been received from the estate of Mrs Lloyd, the following renovations were carried out,

  • 1. The chapel driveway to be asphalted
  • 2. Suitable heaters placed in the chapel to stop downdraughts
  • 3. A notice board to be erected
  • 4. New covers for the pulpit to be purchased
  • 5. New chairs to be purchased for the Dais
  • 6. If sufficient money left, donations to be sent to various charities
  • In 1953 Mr C N Green came before the church to give an account of the Lord’s dealings with him in regard to a call to the ministry.

Upon a proposition of W Taylor and seconded by Mr C Horton, and passed unanimously by the church, the Pastor gave him on behalf of the Church, the right hand of fellowship, wishing him God Speed, in the Masters Service.

Older friends will remember his quiet yet deeply spiritual and Christ exalting ministry.

Throughout Mr Rowell’s long and faithful pastorate there were additions to the Church, and much blessing. It is clear however from his personal writings that he felt in his heart a great burden in regard to the spiritual decline of the nation and the lack of fruitfulness the churches and chapels were now beginning to experience.

From notes written by his son and published as an obituary in the Gospel Standard of September 1961, we glean something of his experiences at Old Hill.

Four years after moving to Old Hill, his greatest personal sorrow came when the Lord called home his dear wife. It was a sorrow shared by all who came under her care and interest as members of the congregation he had served. The war years that followed with other difficulties and trials, were also years of help and deliverance from the Lord.

In 1944 he married again, taking for his second wife, one of his members, a godly woman who was a great comfort to him in his years of increasing weakness.

He was often very tried because after four baptisms in the early years of his pastorate his ministry was not used of the Lord for the ingathering of His children. Once when he was very depressed about it, the Lord gave him the promise. ‘ I will bring them in’, and another time, ‘They shall come’. In 1955 these promises were fulfilled, and several friends asked for membership. How grateful he was for these ‘children’ given to him after so long a waiting time! He was in his eighty-first year when he baptised five candidates, his text on this occasion being, ‘This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it’. Later (on 30th November) he baptised the 6th candidate, whose precarious health had delayed this. A few months after this happy time of in gathering in the Church, he had a very bad stroke paralysing his left side, but his speech was not affected. The next day (19th May 1956) he had a dreadful heart seizure. To all appearances he was dead; the doctor said, ‘He is beyond my help’, but gave him an injection as he said, ‘ for my own satisfaction’. A few minutes afterwards breathing started again and the doctor said he had never seen anyone ‘come back’ like that, but he could not last long. Contrary to all medical opinion he continued to improve and soon told his wife and those in attendance that the Lord had assured him that,’I am the Lord thy God that healeth thee’, and so he would get better. During this wonderful time he seemed to be living more in heaven than on earth, his conversation being only of his dear Lord, and as he spoke of Him and praised Him his face was a picture of radiant happiness.

On Sunday January 27th 1957, he preached in the chapel for the first time after his illness. His text was , ‘Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you’.

He had always shown a great love and concern for souls and rejoiced in the Gospel he had to preach, but now he often spoke as one very near heaven. One of his members remarked one day, ‘ I could not help thinking as I heard him preach: David said, ‘there is but a step betwixt me and death’, but, pastor, ‘there is but a step betwixt you and glory.’ With a radiant face he preached in the evening from, ‘Come hither and I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife’. He described the Bride and her tribulations - a Mary Magdalen, and Paul crying,: ‘When I would do good, evil is present with me’ and, ‘Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ He finished by quoting the Bride’s doxology, ‘Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, be glory,’ etc. His sermons, though short, were fresh and varied. We had feared that he might be very limited and repetitive but this was not so, as he said himself: ‘the Lord brings me sweet meditations and tells me what to take to His people. I rely on him, for He promised me, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee’. One note-worthy Sunday he preached from, ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God’, etc. Speaking of the saints who were now experiencing the comfort and joys of heaven he quoted,

‘Again they strike their harps of gold And Hallelujah cry,’adding: ‘I don't wonder at it, they can't help it. I can't help it here !’ Speaking at the Lord’s Supper one evening from the words, ‘Who hath made us to be partakers’, he said, ‘I am the happiest man on earth’. In 1959 he had the great joy of hearing his eldest grandson preaching in his pulpit. He was almost broken down as he said, ‘Even the fourth generation - how good the Lord is!’

Mr Rowell entered his eternal rest on the evening of the Lord’s Day July 3rd 1960, ‘having finished his course with joy’. He was buried in Rowley Regis Cemetery on July 8th 1960. Mr F T W Bartlett of Acton officiated at the interment.

Mr H Crowter

After Mr Rowell’s illness, supply ministers had occupied the pulpit, probably for more than half the Sundays. When Mr Rowell began to preach again, it was on alternate Sundays, for the most part. The Church now found itself once again seeking the Lord’s leading in respect to a pastor. The Church book records,

One of the ministers supplying was Mr H Crowter of Coventry, he came mostly at midweek services.

Early in June 1962, the members indicated that they had become particularly attracted to his ministry. A decision was made to invite him to come and minister to us on as many Sabbath days as he could in the following year. This was done and in the June following, the letter of invitation was sent inviting Mr Crowter to become the pastor.

The following letter of acceptance was received to the great joy and thankfulness of the congregation.

To ‘The Church of God worshipping at Ebenezer Strict Baptist Chapel, Old Hill, ‘Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.’

The letter received from you dated 10th June, 1963 under the hand of your Deacons, has brought to a head a period of long exercise in relation to the ministry of the Word in your midst. From my first visit I was possessed of a desire that the Lord would grant you a settled ministry, but remained free from any personal exercise in connection therewith until a letter was received from your secretary dated 8th May 1962, requesting that I would serve you in the Gospel for as many Sabbaths as could be conveniently arranged during this present year subject to the will of God.

Being away from home when the letter arrived my wife communicated the contents over the telephone, and as she did so, two Scriptures settled with solemnity upon my spirit indicating to me that it was consistent with the mind and will of God that I should accede to your request. The two texts were Genesis 48 verses 18-19, ‘And Joseph said unto his father, ‘not so, my Father’, and his father refused and said ‘I know it, my son.’

Also Genesis 39 verse 6. ‘ And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person and well favoured.'

From that time I have remained under exercise as to a settlement over you, and upon my visit of Sunday 20th of April 1963, I was favoured with liberty upon my spirit in preaching and during the morning service my heart was filled with love towards you as a people in the bowels of Jesus Christ that a willingness was wrought within me to ‘spend and be spent for you’. (II Corinthians 12 verse 15.)

The receipt of your unanimous invitation to the pastorate confirms my personal exercises, and, as enabled by Divine Grace, I am willing to venture in this matter in hope that the dear Lord will condescend to set his seal thereto by signs following.

God alone knows the depth of insufficiency and unworthiness I feel as I accept this call, and I covet earnestly a place in your prayers that the Lord will make the way prosperous.

‘Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.’ (Heb. 13 v 20-21).

Yours to serve in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, H Crowter.

Mr Crowter commenced the pastorate on January 1st 1964. The Settlement Services were held on Saturday 11th April that year and it is recorded that upwards of 300 people assembled from a wide area as far distant as Lancashire and Cheshire in the North, and Berkshire and Oxfordshire in the South. Mr E. F. Neville of Bedford preached at the afternoon service and Mr F. L. Rowell at the evening service.

The incoming pastor had prayed ‘that the dear Lord would set His seal upon the ministry by signs following’ . The Church book records the answers to that prayer, showing that between 10th October 1964 and 2nd May 1971 eighteen persons were added to the church. The years of Mr Crowter’s pastorate marked a most happy and settled period of the Church’s history. The peace and harmony, which we now so greatly prize is surely one of the fruits of our dear brother’s 32 years as pastor. Mr Crowter was concerned for the young in his flock and established a Bible study group for the growing number of teenagers in the Church. Many of those he nurtured, now stand as pillars of the church today, and in other congregations elsewhere. During this period also Mr Clifford Woodhouse, Mr Joseph Lusted and Mr John Stonelake were exercised concerning calls to the ministry and subsequently sent out by the Church.

Not only was Mr Crowter concerned about the young in the flock, but became deeply exercised over the matter of practical care for the elderly. The outcome of this was under the Lord’s leading the establishing of the Cherith Home at Kingswinford in 1974.

Mr Crowter writes,

On 30th October 1964 two ladies were led through baptism by immersion at Ebenezer Chapel, one of whom was Miss Edith Nock at the considerable age of 75 years. Although she had been in service in royal palaces, she was of a very nervous disposition. I felt led to give this word to her, ‘Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase’ (Job Ch 8 v7) God alone knew the interpretation at that time.

Early in 1970 Miss Nock was admitted to hospital and was ultimately sent on for a period of convalescence. The doctors insisted that she must not return home to live alone, and in due time local-authority residential accommodation was found for her. It was there I visited this gracious lady many times.

The standard of care and general facilities were reasonable, but Miss Nock found the worldly atmosphere very difficult to endure. Residents were expected to sit in the lounge, where television was the dominant feature. She became so distressed by this that she asked to be seated where she could not see the picture, although the volume of noise was considerable, to suit the deafness of many with her in the room. Her complaint to me proved heart rending. The visitors’ room was provided where we could have private conversations, and it was my practice to read from the Bible and engage in prayer with her before I left. On one occasion, the dear lady requested I read and prayed straight away, for as she was emotional she invariably shed a few tears when I prayed. As a consequence, her eyes were red when she returned to the lounge. She said, ‘When I go into the lounge and my eyes are red, they say to me, ‘I wouldn't have him coming here, upsetting me like that, I should tell him to keep away.’ So they would deprive me of one of my real pleasures. ‘ From thenceforth I complied with the request. We spent some sweet times of fellowship together.

I became very disturbed and distressed thinking of my old friend forced to live in such an uncongenial atmosphere. I prayed to the God of Heaven many times, both night and day. The pressure upon my spirit became so great that I felt compelled to take some action.

I ventured to convene a meeting in the schoolroom of Ebenezer chapel on the evening of 12th May 1972.

A letter of invitation was circulated to local Strict Baptist Churches, and to my surprise 33 people came along, representing eight churches. The meeting expressed the desirability for a home to be established in the West Midlands. A steering committee was appointed, comprising Mr T U Barber, Mr D C Cole and myself. On 3rd June 1972 a further letter was sent to the Secretaries of the eight churches, calling for duly authorised representatives to meet at Ebenezer on 14th July 1972, and indicating that all other interested people would be welcome. Upwards of 100 people and representatives from seven churches attended that meeting indicating the strength of local support. Mr Walter A Detheridge, a retired bank manager, stated his willingness to become treasurer, and it was agreed that an account be opened entitled ‘Cherith Fund’, so that donations might be received.

The Lord called Miss Nock to a ‘better country’ on 23rd July 1972. Her tears had proved the means in the Lord’s hands of setting in motion plans for a Christian home in the West Midlands.

This work was mightily blessed of God and provided most excellent and suitable care for the elderly saints. In addition to the excellent work of the paid Staff, there was a good deal of voluntary service. Each Autumn, there was a Sale of Work, which represented several months of activity. In the Summer was a Strawberry tea. Sometimes there were sponsored walks, too. The members of the Home Committees not only attended meetings, but for many years did at least some of the maintenance work in the House and grounds. Until comparatively recently, the lawns were cut and some of the flower beds were attended to by voluntary labour. When Home residents were able to attend chapel services they were conveyed in the cars of volunteers. People from Ebenezer joined members of other local congregations in this work. Sadly the Home had to close in 2001. The Cherith Trust however, continues and at the time of writing the Lord’s guidance is being sought in relation to the best way of continuing Mr Crowter’s vision of caring for the saints in their latter days.

During Mr Crowter’s ministry the chapel was re-decorated and many improvements to the building carried out, most notably the provision of a very tasteful and functional entrance foyer.

The year 1974 saw the home call of Mrs Marie Grace Burgess the daughter of the late Pastor Rowell. At this time she had completed just over 32 years’ service as the leader of the Ladies Bible class. A memorial booklet was produced at the time by Mrs E Butler entitled A Mother in Israel, reflecting the deep affection and high esteem in which Mrs Burgess was held by the Church and congregation.

Still remembered by many at Ebenezer were Mr and Mrs Harold Harris. Mr Harris was for many years deacon, treasurer and leader of the Men's Bible Class. Mrs Harris was another Mother in Israel figure, loved by the children and encourager of all.

Mr Crowter’s long and fruitful ministry ended in 1996 and the Church have been thankful that he and Mrs Crowter felt such a bond of union and friendship between themselves and the Church, that they have continued with us until this present time.

Mr. Crowter was called Home in February 2011.

After a comparatively short period of interregnum, the Church were led of the Lord to call Mr Roland Burrows to the pastorate, who commenced his labours on 1st January 1999.

The Present Work

Mention has already been made of the continuing work of Sunday School and Bible Class, the Friday night children and Young People’s meetings and the Mother and Toddlers group. In addition a monthly Ladies Bible study is maintained, by Mrs Jean Stonelake and regular door-to-door visitation is carried out by Mr T Platt and Mr J Smith. It is the earnest desire of the Lord's people meeting at Ebenezer, that we may continue by God's good grace to...

  1. maintain the faith once given to the saints
  2. preach the Word of God in season and out of season
  3. make the Gospel of redeeming love known
  4. do all that we can to maintain a spirit of peace and harmony in the church
  5. live our lives in such a way that we will commend the gospel we profess
  6. Pray that the Lord will bless our endeavours and by His grace bring men, women, boys and girls to salvation...... and by His infinite mercy and sovereign power revive and build His church.

‘Having therefore obtained the help of God, I (we) continue unto this day.’ Acts 26 v 22

‘Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.’ Ex 14 v 15

‘Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.’ Heb 12 v 2

‘I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ Matt 16 v1