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Taking heart from past tales of church-building; Faith Matters.

THE work of evangelism in Solihull has always been a tough game.

In the mid-1600s John Ley, one of that strange breed of presbyterians within the Church of England, was called to Solihull.

He was described as an excellent preacher. But, as one account goes, "by too much exertion and constant preaching, he broke a blood vessel" and was forced to retire.

In 1823, John Sibree, a Congregationalist evangelist from Coventry visited Solihull, then a village of 2,850 people, and discovered that "the rector of the parish was more addicted to sports of the field than the spiritual care of the flock".

He and others attempted to acquire a building as a venue for worship and gospel preaching but was met with opposition, not least from the incumbent rector, who resorted to anonymous, vitriolic attacks by pamphlet.

Nonetheless a church was started with six members. After 12 years it had 40 members in an almost doubled population of Solihull.

It's a tough game alright. However, I find these stories encouraging.

History can teach us for the present.

Arguably, today we live in an even tougher age. Churches on the whole are in decline in the UK. Perhaps that is also the case in Solihull and the West Midlands.

There seems to be a strong cultural headwind.

Yet we learn from history that when ministers preach with all their hearts the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), and churches pray for God's Spirit to endue the preaching with power, real progress can be made.

It may take time, may cause injury (a burst blood vessel sounds bad!), or bring us face to face with opposition.

But the promise of Jesus Christ is sure: "I will build my church" (Mt 16:18).

Stephen Dancer, Minister, Solihull Presbyterian Church

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Publication:Solihull News (Solihull, Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 27, 2018
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