Old Meeting House Congregational Church (1643)

The Best Hidden Church in Norwich

Charles Silvester Horne 1865 - 1914

SILVESTER HORNE was born at Cuckfield on 15th April 1865. His father, was a Congregational minister, became editor of the Newport Advertiser (Salop), and his son at an early age learnt to give a hand with the paper.

He “joined the Church” when 16, at which age he won an open bursary at Glasgow University. There he took his degree, led the forces of Liberalism in the University, and was profoundly influenced by Edward Caird. He then went to Oxford as one of Fairbairn’s first students at Mansfield. His enthusiasm and energy were already evident, as well as his remarkable oratorical gifts, and before the end of his course he was invited to the important pastorate of Allen Street, Kensington. He worked there from 1889 to 1903, the charm of his personality and the power of his preaching attracting many hearer, winning him a name in all the Churches, and making him popular with all classes of people.

He took an active part in public life, opposing the Boer War, joining with Dr Clifford in resisting the Education Bill of 1902, and finally entering Parliament as Member for Ipswich in 1910. He gloried in the struggle for freedom, and was never so happy as when leading a charge against oppression and injustice. He had the gift of enthusing great audiences, and he could transfer his own fervour to the printed page, as his Popular History of the Free Churches bears witness.

In 1903, he became Superintendent of Whitefield’s Central Mission, Tottenham Court Road, where he did remarkable work, crowding the building with men on Sunday afternoons and with young people on Sunday evenings, and maintaining an incessant round of activities during the week.

In later years his beautiful became strident through over-use, but to the end he was able to thrill and captivate his hearers. In 1910 he was Chairman of the Congregational Union, and at times he was in the front rank of the fight for truth and righteousness. To his colossal task at Whitefield’s he added the Parliamentary work, and in addition he served the Churches without stint.

He crossed the Atlantic to lecture at Yale – the lectures afterwards published as The Romance of Preaching – and died suddenly on a vessel entering Toronto Harbour on 2nd May 1914. He lived a chivalrous, glorious, and knightly life: it would be wonderful if we had men like him in our Churches today.

Hymn 666 in Congregational Praise “For the might of Thine arm we bless Thee, our God, our Father’s God” was written by him and we often sing it at the Old Meeting.