THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL
In the late 1950’s, the Charismatic Renewal hit Britain: a Pentecostal influence that led to charismatic convictions being held and taught within the Parish church of St. John’s, Burslem. In 1959, a local young man by the name of Ron Bailey, became a Christian after watching a Billy Graham film called 'Souls in conflict' at St. John's church. One of Ron’s friends, who attended a Pentecostal Church at the time, had received the 'Baptism of The Holy Spirit' and Ron knew that he, too, wanted to experience this. So he spoke to Rev. Philip Smith, then Rector of St. John’s, about this 'gift', half expecting to receive a disappointing comment. However, Rector Smith instead encouraged Ron to seek the blessing. As a result, Ron was prayed for by his friend on the playing fields of his school and the Holy Ghost fell upon him. From that point on, Ron became very active within the youth group at St. John’s, encouraging the young people and impressing all with his contagious enthusiasm.
Instigating a successful open air campaign in Burslem in 1961, by the following year the Pentecostal influence had grown within the town in a significant and unexpected way. In 1962, David Garner, the organist at St. John’s, announced to Rector Smith that he also had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Beginning to see real faith and unexplainable joy that these young people were experiencing since receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit, he did not want to quench what was clearly God, even though he felt unsure about welcoming it fully into the life of the church. Aware of his response to the movement, Rector Smith began to do some research, keeping a file of newspaper cuttings on the topic.
On September 28th, 1962, both Rector Smith and his wife Norah received the same baptism of the Holy Spirit. Norah was quoted saying, 'There was initial evidence of tongues, along with tremendous joy. The power of the Holy Spirit was present, an impassioned concern for souls and new liberty in witnessing. The keynote was praise, a praising heart and praising lips.' From this experience grew a tremendous interest in St. John's Church and Rector Smith spoke at many meetings and rallies as a result, praying for many leaders and ministers to receive this gift.
St. John’s in Burslem is known for much more than its social history: It has a place in history as a pioneering church.
In 1997, St. John’s entered into a Local Ecumenical Partnership (LEP), by act of Parliament, with the New Testament Church of God. Recently, the Church of England have pulled out of this partnership and in this year of 2020, we are witnessing another stage in the spiritual history of St. Johns as the closure of Anglican worship will bring an end to St. John’s being an Anglican Church and the Parish Church of Burslem. Although the building will
remain in the possession of the Anglican Diocese the building will be leased to the leadership and congregation, coming under the umbrella of the New Testament Church of God. The same pioneering spirit that has followed through the history of the church, will keep going. The church and its leaders, joining with the New Testament church of God are making preparations to take on this Grade 2 listed building and will work with the Diocese to maintain it and preserve its heritage whilst working with the community and seeking Guidance from the Holy Spirit to keep the worship flowing in this church. As we have seen from the past St. John’s has seen many changes and with God’s help we will see a new chapter opening in its history.