The Nazeing Revival

The following is an extract from a local history of the Chapel and is a fascinating account of an overlooked revival that occurred at the time of the Welsh Revival. The date of 1903 is a mystery as the Welsh Revival was from 1904-1905 and there seems to be little more information on this tantalizing glimpse at what was a great blessing at the Chapel all those years ago. When it talks of a dean, these were young students from Cheshunt College.

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“If in Wales why not Nazeing?”

On several occasions towards the end of the nineteenth century when the congregation was growing rapidly, it appeared that Nazeing qualified for two deans from the college. Two of these young men, Harland Brine and Robert Davies were (according to Mr Bernard Pegrum) to have a profound effect on the life of the church. “The earliest of the deans that I remember are Harland Brine and Robert Davies, “he writes, “Brine was somewhat older than Davies and was of French extraction. His ancestors came to this country as Huguenot refugees and he was very proud of this fact and was himself very evangelistic. During his time as dean here, the great Welsh Revival broke out. and Brine said, “If in Wales, why not in Nazeing? “ A band of young men, of whom my father was one and I believe John and Ted Coleman were also in that company, joined hands with Harland Brine, and forming a circle outside the Chapel door, prayed that the spirit which had descended upon Wales might descend on Nazeing too “.

At the end of November 1903, starting on Sun 29th until the following Sunday, Dec. 6th, the chapel held a week‘s special mission. The following is an extract from the minutes of a church meeting held on Thursday Nov 26th I903. “The forthcoming week 3 special mission was then discussed and the arrangements for same completed as follows – a Prayer meeting to be held before the services and a Praise meeting to conclude the Mission to be arranged and a further supply of 4 dozen Sankey’s hymn books to be obtained together with a new tune book the fees and expenses of the missioners to be defrayed from the Maintenance fund at the discretion of the deacons and a collection to be taken on Sundays only. The distribution of the leaflets announcing the mission was also discussed and the district divided into 7 portions for whom distributors were arranged Mr C. Judd was asked to undertake the duties of doorkeeper (with Mr James Pegrum) to which he agreed”.

Nothing further concerning the mission appears in the minutes to tell us how successful it was but during the ensuing 6 months, the church welcomed 16 new members into its fellowship. [Also for the next twenty years or so there was much growth]

“If there is a God in Heaven, let Him now strike me dead “ 

However we do have a little booklet written by Harland Brine himself, which has survived. The title is “The Old Shepherd” and the character referred to was George Hutchings, at one time Pindar of the Common until dismissed for embezzlement in 1877. Harland Brine writes, “He was generally known as ‘The Poet’. But the old shepherd, now over seventy (The Census shows he was actually 63) differed greatly in character and appearance. He was one of the most irreligious men in the village ….I had heard how he would gather the farm lads around him and flinging his coat at his feet he would shake his clenched fists towards Heaven and shout – “If there is a God in Heaven, let Him now strike me dead”. At which blasphemy the boys would tremble lest God should take the old man at his word…As the revival spread and deepened and men and women came under the convening influence of the Holy Spirit, ‘the place was shaken ‘.

Had you visited that village on a certain Saturday night, you would have found the bar of “The Crooked Billet” closed and the publican with his barman sitting together in a front seat in the chapel! I recall the crowning night of that wonderful revival. We met to wait for the Spirit. The back pews were filled with young fellows. Immediately in front of them sat the old shepherd. Even he had been unable to keep away. Of the twenty six who responded that night, the first to rise was the old shepherd I can see him now, his beautiful head bowed at last as he stood for a space in silence and then with deep sincerity said – “O God ..I thank You. for waiting… for such a wicked old sinner…as me. “


Taken from the book Nonconformity in Nazeing: A History of the Congregational Church by Norman Bonnett and Paddy Hutchings