It is not such a very long time ago when the only method we knew of what the weather was going to be like was by consulting some man, much older than ourselves, who, after studying the sky gave a solemn opinion that it was either going to blow before morning and if the wind didn't change we should have rain before a certain time, etc., etc. In due time we got to know the difference between "red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning, and red sky at night, shepherd's delight". Or think we did!
But Aunt Eliza could always let us know without that because of her "rheumatics" or grandfather's favourite corn. If that wasn't enough there was, in most country cottages, a little wooden house, with two doorways out of which popped a little man, if it was going to fine, or a little old woman, complete with umbrella, if it was going to be wet. If both stood in the doorway together it was a bit of a gamble - like the man who wanted to be buried with a harp and an asbestos suit.
Then came the period when a barometer was hung in the hall and solemnly tapped each morning.
This in time has largely given way to the practice of listening to the weather forecast on the wireless each morning.
This year, however, I have come across a new one. I asked the lady of the house where we were staying on holiday what the forecast was and she replied that she hadn't listened but "her spider had been out and that was a sure sign of a good day", Well, well. That was a fresh one to me so, naturally, I wanted to know more about it.
Outside the kitchen window there was a tiny crevice in which a fairly large-sized spider made his home - he must have just about filled it. From the top corners of the frame he suspended his web and at a rough measurement I should say it was about three feet square. Sure enough Bruce (obviously that's what I christened him) would come out if the morning promised to be fair, and after repairing the web from any damage during the night would hang patiently in the centre waiting for the small flies to get caught. If the morning was wet he didn't come out.
The lady also told me that if a wasp got caught in the web, Bruce would cut all round until the wasp could get free, afterwards repairing the damage.
Now, I'm not very partial to spiders. I don't know why, exactly, but they never seem to me to be the sort of thing on which I could lavish affection, but I am intrigued at what I saw and heard.
If, therefore, any reader can supply information on the habits and antics of our ordinary English spiders it will be gratefully received.
Not much is known about the English hymn writer William Chatterton Dix but he is the author of a couple of well-known Christmas carols. Born in Bristol on 14th June 1837, Dix was named after the poet Thomas Chatterton who Dix’s father, John Dix, had written a biography. Dix was sent to Glasgow to develop a mercantile career, eventually becoming the manager of a maritime insurance company.
Alongside his career, Dix wrote hymns and carols. Most of his hymns have fallen out of favour, however, two of his carols remain popular favourites: As with Gladness Men of Old and What Child Is This?
As with Gladness is an Epiphany hymn, which Dix wrote on 6th January 1859 whilst unwell in bed. Dix was frequently unwell and suffered a nearly fatal illness at the age of 29, followed by long bouts of depression. Suprisingly, he managed to live until the age of 61, dying on 9th September 1898 in Cheddar, Somerset.
As with Gladness is based upon the visit of the magi in the Nativity. Using Matthew 2:1-12 as the theme, Dix’s carol describes the journey of the magi to visit Jesus, emphasising that it is not the gifts they bought that are important but their adoration of the Christ child. The first verse mentions the star that guided the magi (“Did the guiding star behold”) and the second describes the place of Jesus’ birth (“To that lowly manger bed”). The third verse mentions the gifts (“As they offered gifts most rare”) and the fourth references Jesus’ purpose (“Holy Jesus, every day/Keep us in the narrow way”). This is the only Epiphany hymn that does not use the words “magi” or “king” in the lyrics, nor does it allude to how many visited the child.
What Child is This? was also written when Dix was unwell. In 1865, whilst recovering in bed, Dix underwent a spiritual renewal, which led to the composition of this carol that was subsequently set to the tune of Greensleeves. The carol was originally part of a longer poem called The Manger Throne but Dix only felt three of the stanzas were suitable for singing. The first verse begins with a rhetorical question, which is answered in the second verse. Subsequently, the second verse asks another question, which is answered in the third. Unlike As with Gladness, which focuses on the magi, What Child is This? is about the shepherd’s visit and the potential questions they may have had when they met him.
Unfortunately, little else is known about William Chatterton Dix.
During prayer the men stand and the women remain seated. During the singing the whole congregation remains seated.
The Church takes the religious education of its youth very seriously.
Although she realises that faith is the first of God she nevertheless also realises the truth of St Paul's words" "So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God." She therefore teaches the Word of God to her youth starting at Sunday School and then continuing in the Boy's Clubs and Young Men's Clubs and Young Women's Clubs.
The main business of these clubs is the study of the Bible, although other subjects like Missionary Literature and so on are also being discussed. All clubs have good libraries.
Then there are the classes held by the Minister, usually divided in about five different groups leading up to the last class from where pupils may apply to be allowed to join the church. Every class meets as a rule for one hour a week.
Although faith in Christ as our Saviour is regarded as sufficient evidence whereupon one may be accepted as a member of the Church, it is usually required from the candidates that a certain knowledge of the Bible and the creeds should have been obtained in accordance with the various intellectual standards of the new members.
Few Churches have a choir, but many churches practice community hymn singing one evening a week.
The Minister is being assisted in the services on a Sunday by one of his deacons who reads the hymns, reads the lesson and makes the announcements. There is in many churches a short prayer meeting immediately preceding the service held in the vestry and only attended by the deacons and the Minister. Immediately following this prayer service the Minister is accompanied to the pulpit by one of his deacons and with a handshake the deacon commits him to the help pf God. At the end of the service the congregation stands in silent prayer while the Minister and his deacons return to the vestry to end the service with a private prayer meeting.
The collections are taken in small bags and not on collection plates. The idea as far as I have always been able to ascertain is to have as much secrecy as possible and not to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, nor let the right eye see what the left hand of our neighbour is doing.
The collections in Holland are certainly a black spot in the religious life. I have always been surprised at the statement of the amounts of the collections in our Church here, and most certainly any Dutch church would be jealous of such collections. In every service there is a separate collection for the poor and in the big cities a distribution of money is very often made to the poor by the diaconate at the end of each morning service.
Holy Communion is not celebrated as regularly as in our churches here. The reason no doubt being that the deacons regard it as their duty to see everyone who wants to take part in the communion personally, in order to point out the grave danger of partaking in this Holy Sacrament without searching themselves first whether the right relationship exists between God and ourselves. They read the warning of St Paul that we can under certain circumstances eat and drink damnation to ourselves as grave enough to charge themselves with that duty.
I think they sometimes hinder people to take part in the service, but may we judge? It certainly is very inspiring to hear an open invitation like we may hear it in church here and although a searching of our heart will no doubt make us feel guilty of many shortcomings and grave mistakes, is not God's love in Christ always bigger than out shortcomings?
Needless of course to say that there is none of the Roman Catholic doctrines left in the Dutch Reformed Church that the bread is being transformed during the communion service into the body of Christ, or the wine into His blood.
The Church in Holland baptises young children in a baptismal service very much alike to a baptismal service in our Congregational Church. I would say however that although her conception of the baptism is not of an ultra Calvinistic nature, the Church does regard the baptism as "the washing of regeneration" according to St Paul's Epistle to Titus, chapter 3:5.
The Church also regards it as a first sign of God's grace to the baby that it was born into a family, the parents of which care to ask that the baby might be brought into God's covenant and receive the sign and seal thereof.
It has always been a point of much strife and unbrotherly argument in the Church in how far this theory and the whole theory of predestination could be argued out yet or ever will because it is so much a subjectivity and not and objectivity. Our outlook in this all depends upon our relationship to God.
As already said, the churches are governed by the deacons locally, and the deacons are elected for two years only, after which period they can be re-elected again after two years of absence from the diaconate. Unfortunately, the members of the churches were not always willing to undertake their duties towards the church and this has prompted a later much regretted action, namely the action to institute election bodies who did all the election work for the members. They were instituted for a period of ten years and only the death of a member caused a vacancy.
This practice is now however being discontinued as much as possible.
Over and above the local diaconate is the regional Classis which meets once a month. This Classis also sends a church visitor regularly to all churches, who sits for an investiture in the vestry one hour a month to hear complaints from any member who thinks anything has happened in the church which is not in accordance with the Bible or the doctrines.
The regional Classis appoints deputies to the provincial synods held every quarter and they also appoint deputies for the national synod held once a year.
Just a few closing words now about the various lines or directions of thought in the Church.
There are confessionalists, i.e. those members who want to live out of and in accordance with the confession of the Church very strictly.
There are the ethicists, who do not care so much about the confession but who pay much attention to the ethics of their religion and try to show forth their will to live as Christ has set us an example - as they say.
They form what we call in Holland the right hand of the left wing of the Church. To the extreme left stands the modernist, who denies that Christ was God and who does not believe in miracles or in the inspiration of the Bible.
More to the extreme right are the re-formed group of believers who although they accept the Gospel as divine truth never seem to be able to accept it for themselves. They have done much harm to the Church in as much as they have so often been the cause of demonstrations of faith, which have to be given by the Church as a whole, being abandoned.
In my opinion it is a great pity that Dutch Theologians have lent themselves to be wholly and solely devoted to one of these various ways of thinking, instead of trying to bring all groups and thought more closely together.
With the exclusion of the ultra modernists, I think all the other groups can claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit who will, however, lead us in all the truth and not just in one truth.
There is a great desire in the Dutch Church nowadays to bring the various directions of thinking close together and member are recommended to try to speak more to members who think differently to themselves, and try to bring down the barriers which divide brothers. It is called "church members' conversation" and is recommended on a private basis, not in meetings of many members at the same time.
Is there anything the Church in Holland could learn from the Church in England?
I would say "Yes". It seems to me, e.g. that the Church in England is putting more effort in the attempt to influence the world through a more demonstrating personal charm of the individual members towards everybody. In other words one gets the impression that church people in England are a very kind and charming people. I think this charmingness could be taken over by our Dutch church members on no small scale. We are often unapproachable and harsh to the outside and no doubt the circumstances have made us like that to some extent. Mr Ward said in one of his sermons not long ago that the circumstances are influencing the religions of the people and no doubt this is noticeable in Holland. Remember our 80 years of struggle for the freedom of faith and our unending struggle against the water (Holland is for a large part from 10-20 feet below sea-level) and we must constantly be on guard against the water.
The Church in England also can learn something from the churches in Holland. Some time ago I saw on a poster outside a church in Maidstone these words:
"A living conviction is better than a dead certainty."
In my opinion the Church in England wants a little more of the "dead certainty" and she will find that it is not dead but alive, and the ground on which a living conviction will flourish and bear fruit. During January, the same church had as its slogan:
"I will resolves to go to church at least once on a Sunday in 1950,"
but I think that if members knew more of the dead certainty they would be more alive and a resolution to go to church would not be necessary.
In Holland we see a "confessing church," we would like to see added: "a church with living convictions."
England likes to demonstrate a church with living convictions; it should make sure that the only ground on which convictions can live, namely, on sound doctrines, is not neglected.
I feel I have been hopelessly incomplete in this story but I have tried to raise points of interest to you. I want to finish with the prayer that God will pour out more and more of His Sprit into the hearts of our Minister, our Deacons, and us ordinary church members alike so as to lead us all into a better understanding of how we ought to behave ourselves and live in the House of God which is: "The Assembly of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
This article was written by A. Van den Brock in April 1950 and was found in a copy of Progress, the monthly magazine of Romford Congregational Church
The history of Holland starts about 100 years before Christ when the Bataves lived in some parts of Holland; they worshipped gods of wood and stone and they believed in selectivity and the history books tell us that babies of just over one year old were thrown into the water to see whether the gods approved of them or not. If they emerged fighting for their breath they were acceptable but if they were too weak to do this they were abandoned.
Then there were the Friesians who made their children go through flames for the same reasons and it was to them that the first Missionaries went out.
It was in the year 496 that Irish Missionaries made their first converts in the South of Holland. King Clovis who ruled under the higher authority of a Frankish Monarch was baptised. But it was not until the year 640 that the first Missionary known by name arrived in Holland. He too came from England and his name was Willebrord. He was a Roman Catholic and later went to Rome to be consecrated by Sergius the First as the First Bishop of the Friesians.
Slowly the Gospel became established but it was to be at first the Gospel in fetters as dictated by the Roman Popes and Emperors, and so we move though the Middle Ages, the times of the Crusades, the time of the mighty power of the Roman Catholic Church, the time also of the inward corruptness and ungodliness of that Church, the time leading up to the reformation.
It is in this time that the Dutch reformed Church was born. About this period historians say, "The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church." Yes, there were martyrs in Holland at that time, hundreds and thousands. It started in 1517 shortly after Martin Luther had nailed his 95 points of disagreement with the Pope on to the door of the church of Wittenberg in Germany.
Luther had found the Bible which had been kept from the people for so long. He had found in its pages the Gospel of forgiveness and sins through the redeeming death of Christ and through the spreading of that message Christ reformed His Church.
In Holland, too, ordinary people started to read portions of the Bible which were handed from hand to hand because the orders of the King were that anybody who was found in possession of the Bible or any part thereof was to be burned or drowned. Perhaps it is partly through this time and through these martyrs death that the love and honour for the Bible established itself so firmly in the Dutch people.
It is at this time, too, that the Church was being assembled together. The more people that were murdered for their open confession of faith in Christ as their Saviour, and for their refusal to pay to the Church a ransom in money to obtain forgiveness of sins the more new confessors there came. It is almost unbelievable that thousands of people were prepared to die for their faith and actually did die rather than obey the then ruling Roman Catholic Church but such are the facts, and can you wonder that when we look back to these times we feel a sacred duty to stand unflinchingly guard over the treasures of faith and confession for which these people died in their thousands.
I will not trouble you with the stories of pain and tribulation which are so vividly given to us by the historians; let me read to you just one confession of faith spoken by one of these martyrs upon hearing the word "guilty" pronounced. His body was tied to a fifteen feet high pyre to be burnt to death. This is what he said: "I have sinned and as a sinner I am worthy of eternal death, but Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour and through Him only I trust in faith that I shall be an inheritance of eternal life."
It is in these days of persecution and terror that the Church confesses its faith. It is, therefore, that this confession is so sacred to the Church in Holland. Written behind hedges and in empty barns where the Church used to assemble it is not only the confession of the church but also its defence. The King had decreed that anybody who subscribed to the new doctrine as apart from the Doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church could not be a good citizen of the land.
Under the leadership of Guido de Bres (who died a martyr's death in 1567), the Dutch confession of faith was drawn up and sent to the King to prove the Church did not pursue any of the bad things it had been charged with by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.
It would take too long to give you even a short sketch of these articles in which every aspect of the faith of the Church has been put down and explained.
Please remember that these 37 articles were written by the Church as a defence against false accusations and not as so often argues as a ways and means to rule the faith of others or to dictate its dogmas or principles to others.
Reading the confession as such, one cannot help subscribing to it and one must come to the conviction that the Spirit of God moved in the hearts and minds of the people who compiled it.
Another important work was done during these terrible years. The Church adopted as a Catechism the doctrines as set out at Heidelberg by two German followers of the reformation Gaspar Oleveanus and Zacharias Ursinus and a certain Peter Datheen translated the catechism into Dutch.
It is still valued by almost all denominations in the present church in Holland and most of the ministers base their evening sermon on its doctrines.
It is divided into fifty-two chapters and the idea is to deal with one chapter each Sunday and so keep all the doctrines fresh and living in the hearts and minds of all members of the church.
Can you imagine all this and more happening in a church of which the members are open to be seized any time and to be called to justice with the terrible consequences of death by torture?
Yet this is true and it would be terrible for another 80 years. In 1568, under the leadership of William the Silent, the church agrees to help in the resistance against the tyranny of the King of Spain and during the following 80 years the church has known its saddest days and its finest days in its fight for freedom to read the Bible and to confess its faith in Christ.
Angels from the Realms of Glory is one of the best-known works of Scottish hymn-writer and poet James Montgomery. Similar to other writers in the 18th and 19th century, Montgomery was passionate about humanitarian causes such as the abolition of slavery. He was also concerned about the exploitation of child chimney sweeps.
Montgomery was born on 4th November 1771 in Irvine, North Ayrshire to a pastor and missionary of the Moravian Brethren. Montgomery followed in his father’s footsteps, training for ministry at a school near Leeds whilst his parents went to the West Indies as missionaries. Unfortunately, both Montgomery’s parents died abroad and he failed to complete his schooling.
For a time, Montgomery was apprenticed to a baker in West Yorkshire followed by a storekeeper in the Dearne Valley, however, what Montgomery desired was a career in literature. In 1792, he moved to Sheffield to work as an auctioneer, bookseller and printer of the Sheffield Register. Later, he became the owner of the newspaper and renamed it the Sheffield Iris. For a time, it was the only newspaper published in Sheffield.
Since school, Montgomery had written poems, however, they were soon getting him into trouble. In 1795, he was arrested for writing a poem about the fall of the Bastille and, in 1796, imprisoned again for his poem that criticised a magistrate. He kept himself amused in prison by continuing to write and published a pamphlet of poems known as Prison Amusements on his release.
Despite enjoying poetry, Montgomery did not think any of them would become timeless classics. He believed the only way his name would be remembered was as a hymn writer. In some ways he was right and a handful of his hymns are still sung today. These include Angels from the Realms of Glory, Hail to the Lord's Anointed, Stand up and Bless the Lord and a version of The Lord is My Shepherd.
Angels from the Realms of Glory, which is sung as a Christmas carol, was first published in the Sheffield Iris in 1816 and began to be sung in churches sometime after 1825.
Montgomery’s success was boosted by the Reverend James Cotterill who preached at St Paul’s Chapel (now demolished), which was once part of Sheffield Cathedral. With Montgomery’s help, Cotterill republished his Selection of Psalms and Hymns Adapted to the Services of the Church of England with the addition of some of Montgomery’s hymns. It is estimated Montgomery wrote around 400 hymns, however, less than 100 are known today.
On 30th April 1854, Montgomery passed away and was honoured by a public funeral. He had remained unmarried but was popular in the city for his religious lifestyle and philanthropy. Several streets in Sheffield were named after Montgomery, as was a pub and theatre.
“A magnificent hymn of praise to God, perhaps the finest creation of its author, and of the first rank in its class,” is how Church of England clergyman John Julian described the hymn Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation. This was written in German by the German Reformed Church teacher Joachim Neander and translated into English by British writer Catherine Winkworth.
Joachim Neander, an important hymnist after the Reformation, was born in Bremen as Joachim Neumann in 1650. His grandfather, a musician, opted to change the family name to its Greek form Neander because Greek names were the current fashion. Neander’s father died when he was young and, therefore, he could not afford a prestigious education. Instead, he studied theology at a school in his hometown. At times, Neander felt he was wasting his time, however, after hearing a sermon by Protestant pastor Theodor Undereyk, he became much more serious about his studies.
In 1671, a year after concluding his education, Neander became a private tutor in Heidelberg and, in 1674, a Latin teacher in Düsseldorf. Whilst teaching, Neander also gave sermons at gatherings and services in the area, which led him to become a pastor in his hometown of Bremen. He was a very popular pastor, however, died in 1680, a year after his appointment from tuberculosis at the age of 30.
Most of Neander’s hymns were written in Düsseldorf, where, new evidence suggests, Neander caused a lot of problems with the Reformed Church. When Neander began working at the Latin School, which was run by the church, he got on amicably with the minister and elders. He accepted invitations to preach and visit the sick but soon tried to introduce new practices without permission, such as private prayer meetings. As the relationship between Neander and the Church began to crumble, Neander did even more to provoke the elders, for instance, refusing to attend Holy Communion because he did not want to sit in the same building as the “unconverted”. The final straw came when Neander made changes to the timetable and buildings at the school. Neander was subsequently suspended.
All Neander’s hymns were written in German, however, those that have been translated into English include All my hope on God is founded and Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation. The latter, known as Lobe den Herren in German, was a favourite of King Frederick William III of Prussia, who first heard it in 1800. The composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, based his Chorale cantata, Praise the Lord, the mighty King of honour, on Neander’s words. The hymn paraphrases Psalm 103 (a.k.a Bless the Lord, O my soul) and Psalm 150 (Praise ye the Lord).
There are at least ten English translations of Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation, but our modern version is based on the translation by Catherine Winkworth in 1863.
Catherine Winkworth was born on 13th September 1827 in Holborn, London, to Henry Winkworth, a silk merchant. At the age of two, Winkworth moved with her family to Manchester where her father had a silk mill. Winkworth’s education was overseen by the Unitarian minister Reverend William Gaskell and a religious philosopher, Doctor James Martineau.
The Winkworth family later moved to Bristol where she got a position as the secretary of the Clifton Association for Higher Education for Women. Winkworth was a feminist and is remembered at Clifton High School for Girls where a school house is named after her.
Catherine Winkworth spent a year in Dresden where she developed a fascination of German hymnody. In 1854, she published the book Lyra Germanica, which consisted of a collection of German hymns that she had translated, including one by Joachim Neander.
Unfortunately, Winkworth’s career as a translator was cut short when she died suddenly from heart disease whilst in Switzerland. She is commemorated on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church with a feast day on 7th August, the same day as the hymn writer and priest John Mason Neale.
This article was found in Progress, the monthly magazine of Romford Congregational Church, March 1949. It was written by the editor and choirmaster Mr T. J. Dove of Oaklands Avenue.
Up to the moment I have not been able to obtain anything very much about life in Romford under the Roman occupation although there are, of course, the stories handed down of the fierce fighting that took place in what is now known as Essex and East Anglia. It is also a matter of conjecture as to what induced Julius Ceasar [sic] to invade these shores. It may have been like subsequent Dictators he had to keep his people quiet with promises of further conquests, but there is a strong belief that oysters played an important part. I have seen it stated that Ceasar [sic] was very partial to them and as they were plentiful in those days and provided one of the main articles of food the Romans came over to commence a new export drive! A cynic, however, has suggested Ceasar [sic] may have had a bad oyster and came over in revenge!! There is little doubt the bivalve played some important part at that time. One of the things that has mystified experts through the ages was how the Romans made their cement, and some years ago when going over the remains of an old Roman villa the archeologist told me it was believed to be the humble oyster was the secret but in what form no one had as yet found out.
It is known that at the time of the Roman invasion the Trinobantes [sic], then the inhabitants of Essex, were in the throes of a dispute with a neighbouring tribe - the Catuevellauni - and their king slew the ruler of the Trinobantes [sic] and proclaimed himself King of the two tribes. This didn't suit Mandubratius son of the slain ruler and he fled to Gaul, then inhabited by the Romans and it was probably he who induced the latter to come to this country as he is said to have returned with them and eventually became chief of the Trinobantes [sic] under Roman rule.
This all goes to show that the inhabitants of the land were not the savages we have been led to believe. They had a form of government and must have had considerable strategic military knowledge because it took the Romans a long while, with all their strength to overcome the tribes.
Exactly what that form of government was I cannot say but some time after the Roman Conquest the country was divided into counties and a Sheriff placed in charge. He was appointed by the crown or ruler and had very wide powers. He was probably the forerunner of Hitler's Gauliters or the Regional Commissioners appointed to act (should the emergency ever arise) in this country during the last war.
He in turn appointed a county court. This should not be confused with the judicial county court we know to-day but it was in the nature of a government assembly composed by freemen of the shire.
It was no easy matter in those days to control the population, small though they may seem compared with ours to-day. The land had to be self-supporting and accordingly there was always some strife going on between those who had cleared ground for the growing of crops and the more nomadic tribes who kept to the woods and forests living largely by their hunting and what they could steal from others.
To counteract this the county was divided into hundreds, an expression most of us have heard or seen but perhaps did not know how it was derived. This meant that every hundred families and each one of these families had to appoint its own representative to attend the hundred court. He also had to be responsible for the good behaviour of his family and assist in detection or prevention of crime. Later this started the police force because one male in every ten families had to take the office and all males over the age of twelve were eligible.
One can see in this hundred court the elements of communism as we know it to-day.
Romford did not have its own hundred but came under the Liberty of Havering which seems to have been rather higher up in the social scale and had privileges of its own.
The hundred court was presided over by a bailiff appointed by the sheriff and this kind of government went on for a long while. Every seven years there was an inspection by judges who examined the courts and questioned the bailiff, members and sheriffs on their decisions and saw how the hundreds were being run, but the main portion of this fell into disuse about the reign of Edward the third.
It would seem fairly clear that although The Emperor, King or Senate (whichever operated at the time) laid down the policy it was left, in the main, to the local people to administer, a point upon which there is in varying opinion to-day when so much power is being taken from the elected representatives for dealing with local affairs.
It would be interesting to know what Romford looked like in those days. In imagination I can see a company of Roman soldiers marching along the main road late in the afternoon having started from Londinium in the morning. Possibly they had to cross the Lea at Bow in boats because it is known that it was only after one of the Queens (Elizabeth I fancy) got something of a drenching with her retinue due to the river being in flood at that point that the first bridge in the shape of a bow was made in this country at that point. Or it may be they waded through at Old Ford as we know it now.
Although only twelve miles it would be by no means an easy journey. Chariots would get stuck in the mud, attacks from natives were always a serious risk; provisions and equipment had to be transported and meals arranged en route. By the time Romford was reached everyone from the centurion to the cook would have had enough. I wonder how the old Romfordians of that day greeted them - if at all! Probably doubtful at first because few people really welcome a conqueror - except irresponsible girls. Yet after a short time it would become the recognised practice.
This article was found in Progress, the monthly magazine of Romford Congregational Church, March 1949. It was written by the editor and choirmaster Mr T. J. Dove of Oaklands Avenue.
Are you a creature of moods? I'm afraid I am. I'm fond of listening to the broadcast at 1.10pm on Sundays entitled "Country Magazine" but get a bit peeved because only on about one occasion has there been a reference to Essex (unless of course I've missed the others!)
As an Essex man bred and born, whose parents were Essex people bred and born, I have a great love for the county. It must be admitted it has not the grandeur of North Wales, the Lake District, or the Highlands of Scotland, nor the beauty of Devon and Somerset. While the coast line has none of the ruggedness of Cornwall. We have, however, many spots that are well worth a visit, and claims in the county equalling those of any other.
If you want quiet beauty what about a walk or ride through South Weald and the side roads to the Brentwood-Ongar Road? If you want woods where is there anything to beat Eppng Forest (far superior to the New Forest.) Epping Forest was in existence hundred of years before New Forest. While the latter boasts the William Rufus stone, showing the spot where that king was killed, Epping Forest still has the trenches where Queen Boadicea made her last line of resistance. Then, of course, there is Queen Elizabeth's hunting lodge, now a museum and well worth anybody's inspection.
The view from High Beech is lovely. Many thousands visit the Forest every week, but it is just possible, that, like so many other things, being on your own doorstep, we do not appreciate the beauty. Yet spend a good deal of money to "admire" places not more beautiful! From High Beech the run down the hill to Waltham Abbey to see the old church is worth anyones money. (Incidentally what does Waltham mean? There is Waltham Abbey, Little Waltham and Great Waltham, the two latter being a good many miles from the former, but how did the name Waltham come about?)
Now cross Nazing Common and go up into West Essex and see the beautiful country there. This will disillusion those people who have only seen that part of Essex adjoining the river and refer to it as being "flat and uninteresting." What about the old world town of Thaxted with its wonderful church, and then back through Dunmow, noted for its famous trials where a flitch of bacon was awarded to the couple who could prove, to the satisfaction of judge and jury, that they had lived for a year and a day in complete happiness without quarrels!!
Back through the Rodings to Ongar, bearing left to the Chelmsford road and to see the two churches side by side at Willingale, and hear various stories as to how they came about (none of which ever seem to agree).
I could go on for hours talking about the lovely spots in Essex; If they are not lovely why is it that an artist like Constable found such pleasure in them, and one of the leading, if not the leading artist of to-day, makes his home at Dedham.
Then our rivers; nowhere in the world are there better oysters than those known as Pyfleets, spatted and grown just off the mouth of the Colne, and haven't Brightlingsea yachtsmen always been the leading men in the yachting world. The days of big racing yachts are probably over because people are now unable to afford them, but prior to the war Brightlingsea men were always in the forefront of manning them.
Wasn't the Earl of Essex a suitor for Queen Elizabeth's hand, and didn't she make her finest oration at Tilbury? Naturally, she had Essex men well to the forefront on that occasion.
Even I can remember the time when the only county to beat an Australian touring side was Essex; that the world's fastest bowler is an Essex man, still alive and hale and hearty, and when Essex dismissed the much vaunted Yorkshire for a paltry 33 runs!!!
I even remember the time when Romford was a dear old country town and it is not so many years ago when certain other members of our church joined me in helping to unload a pear tree that overhung the path in South Street!!!!
Yes. I'm an Essex man and proud of the county, and if anybody wants to "argue" about it they have only to look up the front page of this magazine to find the address!!!!!
Broadcast! Huh! I'd tell 'em.
The following was added in the May 1949 issue of Progress
So many people have referred to the article in the March issue under this heading that I am tempted to add a few further features. Before doing so however thanks are due to the gentleman who brought round a tourist guide, entitled "Welcome to Essex." It is published by the "Essex Chronicle," Chelmsford, and is well worth the 1/-.
Readers will recall I mentioned Thaxted church. This guide also gives the information that in medieval times Thaxted used to be the Sheffield of the locality. What this means exactly I do not profess to know, but as soon as opportunity affords must find out something more about it.
Then there is a mention of Pleshey. As a youngster I was taken there and up the "Mount," where there used to be a castle. This is mentioned in Shakespeare's "King Richard II." A legend has it that a tunnel ran for several miles from Pleshey, but my grandmother said no one had been through it for many years as it was feared the air had become foul. If any reader knows anything of the existence of this tunnel it would make interesting reading.
It was my intention to add other places of interest this month until I looked at the tress and hedgerows and then, naturally, it was Epping Forest, that came into view. One may admire the Wye Valley, the Lake District, the Dales of Derbyshire, the moors of Yorkshire and Scotland, the mountains of Scotland and Wales, the red earth of Devon or the cliff scenery of Cornwall, but if you have never been through Epping Forest in spring, then you don't know what real beauty is.
Anyone interested in botany can find wonderful specimens there, but it is not necessary to go on an expedition of this nature to enjoy oneself.
One has only to appreciate colour to see the most wonderful collection of varying tints of green it is possible to find, all blending and making the perfect picture. Did I say blending? No, that would be wrong. The one that will upset it will be the green of some ladies' frock, that compared with nature's colouring, will look horrible!
However, more about Essex on another occasion
"Arglwydd, arwain trwy'r anialwch,” wrote the Welsh premier hymnist William Williams (also known as Pantycelyn), which would eventually be known as Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah. Recorded as one of the greatest literary figures of Wales, Williams was among the leaders of the Welsh Methodist revival in the 18th-century.
William Williams was born on 11th February 1717 in the Welsh parish of Llanfair-ar-y-bryn to John and Dorothy Williams. The nickname Pantycelyn, which means “Holly Hollow”, comes from the name of the farmhouse where Williams died aged 73.
Not much is known about Williams’ childhood other than he was brought up in a nonconformist household and attended a nonconformist college. He originally intended to study medicine but changed his mind after listening to the evangelical Methodist revivalist Howell Harris. Following this, he felt called to the priesthood and abandoned his nonconformist upbringing to take orders in the Establish Anglican Church.
Williams’ first position was as curate to Theophilus Evans in the mid-Wales parish of Llanwrtyd. Whilst he was there, he became involved with the Methodist movement, which upset his parishioners who reported him to the Archdeacon. At the time, Methodism was not a church denomination but rather a faction, which many saw as a threat to the Anglican Church. Due to the complaints, Williams’ application to be ordained as a priest was refused.
Since he could not be an Anglican priest, Williams opted to be a Methodist preacher instead. Williams began to travel throughout Wales to preach the doctrine of Calvinistic Methodism. Since his pay was poor, he supplemented his income by selling tea. As there were no Methodist churches, Williams preached his sermons in seiadau (fellowship meetings), which he had to personally organise as he went from place to place.
Although there were several Methodist revivalists, Williams mostly worked alone, which was a considerable physical and mental burden, however, it was rewarding to see his community of converted Methodists grow.
As well as being a leader of the Methodist Revival, Williams was a celebrated hymn writer. He became known as "Y pêr ganiedydd" (The Sweet Songster), which echoes the description of King David in 2 Samuel 23:1: “the sweet psalmist of Israel”. The majority of his hymns were written in Welsh apart from O’er the Gloomy Hills of Darkness, Hosannah to the Son of David and Gloria in Excelsis. Williams’ most famous, however, is the English translation of “Lord, lead thou through the wilderness”, which has been adapted into Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah/Redeemer.
Cwm Rhondda, as it is sometimes known in Welsh, is based on Isaiah 58:11: “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” The hymn, which was translated into English by Peter Williams (1722-96), describes the journey through the wilderness of God’s people after they escaped from slavery in Egypt. They were guided by a cloud by day and fire by night, eventually arriving in the land of Canaan after forty long years. God kept his people alive during the journey by supplying them with a daily portion of manna.
Some people interpret Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah, as a Christian’s journey through life. By following Christ’s guidance, the Christian eventually reaches the gates of Heaven. The lyrics “verge of Jordan” can be understood as the gates and “death of death and hell’s destruction” as the end of time. As a result, the hymn is often sung at funerals, for instance, the funerals of Princess Diana and the Queen Mother. On the other hand, it was also sung at the royal weddings of Prince William and Catherine Middleton and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Non-Christian people may be familiar with the hymn from attending rugby union matches. Known as the “Welsh Rugby Hymn”, it is often sung by supporters of the Welsh team. Alternatively, the tune may be familiar to football fans, although, as of 2016, the lyrics have been changed to “You’re Not Singing Any More” and sung at the losing opposition!
At 22 years of age, Robert Robinson wrote the words to the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing; words which are still familiar today. Robinson was an English dissenter who, as well as writing hymns, spent his life researching and studying the antiquity and history of Christian Baptism.
Robert Robinson was born on 27th September 1735 in Swaffham, Norfolk. His father, Michael Robinson, died when the boy was only five years old and his mother, Mary, was cut off from the rest of her family who disapproved of her “lowly marriage”. Fortunately, Robinson’s uncle paid for his position at a school near Scarning, Dereham, under the tuition of Reverend Joseph Brett. Robinson remained at school until the age of 14 when he was sent to London as an apprentice hairdresser.
Inspired by his religious schooling and his love of reading, Robinson regularly studied the Bible and writings by early Christian authors. From his studies, Robinson became convinced infant baptism was inefficient, especially in comparison to the baptism of adults who have chosen to believe in God and the teachings of Jesus. As a result, none of Robinson’s twelve children were baptised as infants.
In 1752, Robinson heard the Calvinist cleric George Whitefield preach and was inspired to convert to Evangelical Methodism. He was subsequently invited to assist at the Calvinistic Methodist Norwich Tabernacle set up by James Wheatley in 1754 but left after a matter of weeks.
Rejecting Methodism, Robinson established a new Congregational church in St Paul’s Parish, Norwich. This, however, did not satisfy his beliefs and values, so by 1759, he had moved again. Robinson settled at the Stone-Yard Baptist Chapel in Cambridge, now known as St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church. He began preaching there as a Lecturer and then, in 1762, as a Pastor. Two years later, a new chapel was built to hold his growing congregation, which numbered more than one thousand.
It was Robinson’s life-long wish to meet the Separatist theologian Joseph Priestley and finally got his chance in June 1790. Robinson travelled to Priestley’s New Meeting Chapel in Birmingham where he preached two sermons on Sunday 6thJune. Robinson planned to stay in Birmingham for a few days, however, he never left, dying in his sleep in the early hours of Wednesday 9th June 1790 at the age of 54. Priestley conducted his funeral and he was buried in the Dissenters' Burial Ground in Birmingham.
Robinson’s two known hymns are Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing and Mighty God, while angels bless Thee, both of which remain in our hymnbooks today. The former was written shortly after Robinson converted to Methodism. The lyrics of Come Thou Fount… are based on 1 Samuel 7:12 in which Samuel says, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” Samuel had placed a stone between Mizpah and Shen and named it Ebenezer, which means “stone of help”. Some versions of the song contain the reference to the stone in the second verse:
Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I'll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon