Old Meeting House Congregational Church (1643)

The Best Hidden Church in Norwich!


My life is special...I and my world are part of each other...I and all life are united in a bond of understanding. I have a job to do.

As a pastor I am constantly being amazed that so many people find it hard to consider themselves as special. So, this week I am sharing some thoughts which I am praying might help you in this respect. In Genesis chapter 1 and verse 27 it reads: “So, God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.” Did God ever create anything badly? Again, in Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 10, it says: -- “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Fear not I am not going to launch into a sermon but please look at what the Bible says about you. Why did God allow His Son, Jesus, to die for you, if He did not think you were special? Why not try to think the following thoughts? –

I’m special. In all the world there’s nobody like me. Since the beginning of time, there has never been another person like me. Nobody has my smile. Nobody has my nose, eyes, hair or voice. I’m special.

No one can be found who has my handwriting. Nobody has my taste – for food or music or art. No one sees things just the way I do. In all of time there’s been no one who laughs like me, no one who cries like me. And what makes me laugh and cry will never provoke identical laughter and tears from anybody else, ever.

No one reacts to any situation just as I would react. I’m the only one in creation who has my set of abilities. O, there will always be someone who is better at things I am good at, but no one in the universe can reach the quality of my combination of talents, ideas, abilities and feelings. Like a room full of musical instruments, some may excel alone, but none can match the symphony when all are played together. I’m a symphony.

I’m beginning to realise it’s no accident that I’m special. I’m beginning to see that God made me for a very special purpose. He must have a job for me that no one else can do as well as I. I am special.


You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).

Can you close your eyes for a moment to the scenes of misery and woe, degradation and sorrow that continue to prevail on account of sin, and picture if you can in your mental vision the glory of the perfect earth? Where not a stain of sin mars the harmony and peace of a perfect society; not a bitter thought, not an unkind look or word; love, welling up from every heart, meets a kindred response in every other heart, and benevolence marks every act. There sickness shall be no more; not an ache nor a pain, nor any evidence of decay – not even the fear of such things.

Think of all the pictures of comparative health and beauty of human form and feature that you have ever seen and know that perfect humanity will be of still surpassing loveliness. The inward purity and mental and moral perfection will stamp and glorify every radiant countenance. Such will earth’s society be; and weeping bereaved ones will have their tears all wiped away, when thus they realise the resurrection work complete.

John, you might be asking, “are you on drugs?” “No,” I have just found such a picture in my Bible (Revelation 21:4). The kingdom of Queen Elizabeth ll will end but the kingdom of God is everlasting.


Whose faith do you follow?

For the disciples, it was Jesus. They were led directly by their experiences of the life of Jesus, Himself.  Today, we have the Word of God and for those who have believed, we have the Holy Spirit living inside to instruct and guide, and we do in a very real sense, have to make our faith our own.  But hopefully, many of us also have those role models in our lives that we can look up to, learn from and can follow.  In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul tells his followers to “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”. Philippians 3:17 says in the NIV “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”

I am thankful for the many figures throughout my life that have poured into me the Word of God, shared with me their life lessons, and have pointed me in Truth often without even having to say a word.  It starts at the top with my family and then builds from there with the church body and friends. The words “Whose faith follow” from Hebrews 13 verse 7 were inscribed on my father’s grave and over the years have inspired me and challenged me to be as faithful minister as he was.

In today’s challenging world perhaps, we need inspiration and role models more than at any other time. But hold on have we forgotten the early days when Congregational Churches were first gathered? They were very dark days indeed for Bible believing Christians. If you erred from the State Church, you risked imprisonment and even torture! The founders of my chapel had to spend years in exile to escape persecution.

Sadly, in the minds of many, history is a subject to be tolerated when necessary, but ignored whenever possible. Sadly, this is also true for church history. The philosophy behind this attitude is that whatever was done in the past is dead and gone, but what is happening now is living and vital. But Solomon stated in Ecclesiastes 1:9–10, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us” (ESV). Several times in Scripture we are told to learn from the things done in the past, that we may become wiser (1 Corinthians 10:11; Romans 15:4), and this is especially true regarding church history.

I am not a graduate in church history, but I am greatly inspired by the giants of faith who walked before, often in very challenging and difficult situations. The sort of faith that we read about in the Bible, the type that can move mountains is hard to find these days. Yet, if we can learn about those who founded many of our chapels, perhaps some of their faith might rub off onto us. I had never written a church history before but felt God was calling me to do it. I was really helped by reading a PDF booklet published by the Congregational Library in America. It is free of charge and you can download if from – it’s called Writing a History of Your Local Church.

I have just completed writing one and it is now being published in America by Parson Porch Books. If you would like to get a copy you can purchase it on – it’s called “A Brief History of the Old Meeting House Congregational Church (founded in 1643): Our Story So Far.”  Not only are book sales helping church funds to grow but it is helping many to capture the vision of those who first gathered the chapel. If your chapel does not have one you might consider writing one.

So, as I end this blog may I ask, whose faith do you follow?

And secondly, is your faith one that others should follow? 

I can’t say I follow Christ perfectly in my life, but I am seeking to walk with Him.  Thank you to those ahead of me, whose faith I follow.  Thank you to those beside me, who walk alongside as we stride to be more like Him daily.  I pray for those who may follow me, that I may be faithful in my walk and in pointing them to Christ (Galatians 2:20). 

The truth is we are all role models ……so who/what are we leading others to? If you don’t have any to follow why not find out some of those who have gone before. You might just find some inspiration that makes a difference in your life now.


The Cross - "I" Crossed out

The sign most associated with the Christian faith is a cross. I heard a suggestion that it stood for the “I” being crossed out of our lives. I think this is a helpful suggestion as the call of Christianity to men and women is to self-surrender to the will of God. This is certainly not a popular idea these days. Superficially, this looks like the denial of the rights of self-determination. We like to argue that our wills are our own responsibility, and to abdicate that right is to refuse the primary duty of self-hood. We cling to our duty or privilege of ordering our life in our own way. We dislike any attempt at dictatorship of our wills. Yet that attitude is based on a misunderstanding. When we surrender our wills to God we do not lose them, we discover them again in a new fulness. When we are learning to swim for example, we often cling tenaciously to some definite link with solid earth. We dislike the idea of trusting ourselves to the uncertain medium of seven feet of water. Yet we shall never know the thrill of the free movement of the true swimmer until we launch out and trust ourselves to the sure support of the sea. In the same way, when we launch our little lives into the great ocean of God we do not lose our power of self-determination, we find it in a finer and more wonderful medium. I do not lose my wisdom when I seek God’s wisdom, I bring mine into touch with a higher than my own. It is still my wisdom and judgement that are exercised in my surrendered life. Only I am moving in a wider liberty. Jesus’ word to the fishermen of Galilee is still a call to us today. “Launch out into the deep.” “He that loses his life for My sake shall find it” – greater abundance.


Compromise - the sign of the times


Our minds have a strange capacity for adjusting themselves to unpleasant facts. I understand that during the First World War men lives in water-filled trenches, standing at times up to their waits in mud and sleeping in wet clothes, yet they managed somehow to survive. Their minds became adjusted to the seemingly impossible. It is the same with inner facts of our experience. We may find some unfortunate habit getting a hold on our lives. We begin to be critical, bitter, jealous or afraid. At first, we may realise the harm of having such thoughts or feelings, but gradually, unless we are careful, we find ourselves making excuses for these unwelcome thoughts and sooner or later we fail altogether to realise that they are wrong. We give them place in our lives and adjust ourselves to them. That is the serious element in the situation. We can keep up the forms of religion, go to church, say our prayers and yet never come to grips with the evil thig that has been allowed a place in our lives. If challenged, we may even conscientiously deny the presence of any harmful thing. To get at the sin in our lives which is keeping us from God or from spiritual vitality most of us need help. There can be no peace until we have faced and destroyed every known evil thing within our hearts. Let’s remember the words from Scripture, “Cleanse me, O God, from secret faults.”


Try two-way prayer

The other day I was invited to a meal which was a real treat to me. Over the meal my host asked me all kinds of questions and we discussed many issues which face human race. We both agreed that there were many things wrong in today’s society but then my host put me on the spot when he asked me what I could recommend that would make a difference. Gosh, that has put me on the spot, I thought but then from no-where I said, “try two-way prayer.”

Let me explain. Most people practice some form of prayer. The majority tend to only pray when they are in definite need. Their prayers, therefore, are in the nature of petitions. All prayer begins in this way. It is like the infant cry, “Father, give me.” But God does not want us to remain spiritual infants. Therefore, prayer ought to extend its range and its quality. Praise and thanksgiving soon begin to find a place in the prayers of anyone who takes prayer seriously. We must go on in the practice of prayer until we get to the stage of real communion with God. This means not merely talking to God, but also listening to Him. Everyone of us can cultivate this “two-way prayer.” At first, when we listen to God, we are not aware of any messages being given. Indeed, we find most of the messages come through the day. This is as it should be. But if we persist with “the listening heart,” we shall be surprised at the messages God puts into our minds. There are difficulties, of course. But patient practice in listening to God will be rewarded by a growing sensitiveness to His voice. We shall discover that God has things to say to us that no one else dare say. When we hold our lives quietly before God, we find a searchlight turned onto our hearts. Prayer is fellowship. We talk to God, and God talks to us. Do we always give God a chance to speak to us? His words are spirit, and they are life.



Have you found answers to the problems in your own life?

It’s becoming more and more popular these days for folk to go on a pilgrimage. The BBC has recently brought out a programme that brought together a group of 8 celebrities who travel together on an ancient pilgrim route that starts in Canterbury and ends up in Rome. The programme however starts in Switzerland and unlike ancient pilgrims our celebrities travel part-way by coach. However, whilst they are together they share their beliefs, some profess to have faith whilst several others have none. It seems to me that all of us are searching for something in today’s complex world.

Have you ever considered what is the maximum contribution you can make to the Kingdom of God during your life? Is it to become an eloquent exponent of the message of God contained in the Bible? Is it to show your interest by regular attendance at church? Is it to attend meetings and give yourself to help good causes? All these are valuable, but are they the highest? In a world which has lost faith in the practicability of Christianity, the biggest contribution you can make is first of all to demonstrate that through Christ you have found the answer to the problems in your own life. Unless Christ meets the needs in our own experience we cannot present His message as the answer to the difficulties in life of another. We must reveal Him as the Master of our own lives first. In the second place, we must demonstrate, His power to deal with the circumstances of our own daily lives. He has the answer for every problem in the domestic, business, political, and international life of the world. Can we demonstrate that He enables us to become master over our own circumstances? The only gospel which will meet with acceptance in the world today is a gospel which really works. It must show its power to help men and women to become more than conquerors. The call today is not primarily for fine speaking and earnest social service, but for a faith that will achieve otherwise impossible results in the ordinary fields of human activity.


Spiritual Thermometers


We’ve just adjusted our clocks to Summer Time, but I wonder if you have recently made any adjustment to your spiritual thermometer? Most of us have something which reveals to us our spiritual condition. In most cases it is some special weakness of failing which we have had to fight hard to overcome. One of the hardest things that I have battled with over the years is taking greater control over my weight – I guess that you may others with the same challenge. There are so many things that the world offers that can reduce our spiritual effectiveness. Over the years there have been times when I seemed to have gained more control over my appetite and I have felt fantastic BUT then temptation comes along unexpectedly, and I have discovered that I have fallen yet again. In nearly every case the cause of its recurrence is to do with a drop in my spiritual temperature to a level where the old temptation again can assert itself. Doctors tell us that if we keep our general health above a certain level we are in a position to ward off automatically some of the more deadly bacteria that attack us. When the level falls these enemies seize their opportunity assert their presence. In the same way, when we allow our spiritual temperature to fall through slackness, loss of effective “quite times,” compromise on some vital issue or deliberate sin, we find that old temptations begin to creep back. The only cure is to face them again, confess them, surrender them, and commence once more the close walking with God, which is our only security and our only way of effective and triumphant living.


I do not build up barriers in my mind that do not exist. I use my failures to open the door of achievement

Houdini, the famous magician and escape artist, could get out of any jail, handcuffs, or straight-jacket that he ever tried – that is, all except one.

That one place was a little jail in England. Houdini worked at the cell lock for more than two hours. He worked with that terrific speed that usually unlocked doors in thirty seconds. But he couldn’t get the lock to spring. Finally, tired out by his strenuous efforts, he leaned against the door. It swung open – it had never been locked!

Life is something like that, isn’t it? We build up barriers in our minds that do not exist. We lock ourselves up in the jail of failure by doubts and fears, that only live in our imagination.

I meet many people who seem to think that they can sort out their own lives, but they are doomed to fail as self-effort does not open every door but when we are empowered by God in our lives, He enables us to make the changes. Sadly, some of us have stopped trying, because of past failures – we think there is no use. We assume that the door to success has been locked against us. Maybe, if instead of sitting down and giving up, we would just lean against the door and with God’s help, it would swing open.



According to my faith - so shall it be. (Matthew 9:29)

Pray a great deal and always let your prayers take the form of thanks giving on the assumption that God is giving you great and wonderful things; for if you think He is, He surely is. God will not give you any greater blessing than you can believe in. He wants to give you great things, but even He cannot make you take anything greater than you are equipped by faith to receive.


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