Claverdon Nr Henley in Arden
In the early 1960’s I was part of a team of young people who wanted to see change. The team, by the way, was call Ribbons of Faith (RoF) cut me some slack; it seemed like a cool name at the time. We planned to change the world! I don’t know about everyone else, but I still do.
Changing the world can be laborious, and sometimes just persuading people to come and meet ‘the best friend you could ever have’ is harder that you expect.
One of the team members, John Moore, became very concerned with the fact that the villages of the UK did not seem to know much about our ‘best friend’. He wanted us to do something about it. We couldn’t think of anything imaginative, so we decided to go to a picturesque little village called Claverdon, about 30 miles from Birmingham. The village didn’t have much in the way of a centre apart from a community hall and a big Anglican building. We got to know the local Rector, Cannon Ross, who welcomed us with open arms when he heard what we wanted to do. He gave us the community hall for free, to use once a month for whatever we liked. And so we began to see if we could get Claverdon folk interested in meeting Jesus.
All we did was walk around the village and knock on everyone’s door to say hello. We had a newspaper, funnily enough called Challenge, which we gave people to read and also offered them books by Billy Graham. The community hall became our lunch centre as we trundled into town from the big city; our convoy usually consisted of three vanloads of people.
Why was it funny to be using a newspaper called Challenge? Three young men who we did not know very well offered to come and help us distribute Challenge newspapers, we thought this was kind of them and gratefully accepted their offer. After three months we discovered they were distributing the communist newspaper of the same name. This did not make us popular in middle class Claverdon as their demographic was definitely not pro communist.
Today I believe that the UK has changed considerably; there is a new openness towards spirituality, not only Christianity but spirituality in general. In the early sixties there was a much greater resistance to anything connected with God or spirituality, I am glad of the change taking place.
As a result of the sixties resistance, our door knocking in the middle class village often resulted in a very polite English response which included a smile but the subtext was an unmistakable brush off; ‘Oh how nice for you but please go away, we are very happy in our lostness, please leave us alone.’ Nevertheless, month after month we went back although we appeared to have little response.
Billy Graham came to the UK and this seemed like a golden opportunity to our team. We continued to knock on doors and we booked some large coaches. When people opened their doors we offered them an invitation and a free ticket to come with us to hear the American evangelist who was coming to London.
The outcome was that we filled three coaches, we went to London for the day with our villagers and many of them made a real commitment to Christ at the Billy Graham meeting. This was not the end of the story, we continued to go back to the village but now the villagers themselves were reaching out to their own neighbours and introducing them to their new found friend. The Anglican church was blessed and we felt that contact was worthwhile, this one village had received some impact from the good news that is Jesus
For Our Lab Stories
11th April 2010
Editor: A Brookes