‘The Hope in Hope Street – 200 years in Hanley’ by Gervase Charmley
Occasioned by the 200th anniversary of the church now known as Bethel Evangelical Free Church, Hanley, this enjoyable book is a rare treat for those such as myself who enjoy learning more about British nonconformist church history.
It might seem unlikely that those with no connection to the church should find the book interesting, but it certainly is, because Mr Charmley has not provided us a black-and-white sketch, but a full colour painting. Whilst it could be argued that sometimes he digresses a little too much, the amount of information available certainly gives an understanding about the changes, over time, in the church which was originally known as ‘Hope Chapel’, a congregational church.
Mr Charmley writes with a lively, conversational style, and is unafraid to express his own biblical convictions throughout. One particular feature of the book is the amount of light shed on the remarkable ‘Bethel Evangelistic Society’, centering on the ministry of Stephen Jeffreys, its founder, and his son Edward. Largely Pentecostal in their views, it is clear that there was a considerable time of blessing experienced as many churches were founded, and in the case of the church in Hanley, ‘brought in’ to the family of churches.
This book, which gives glory to God for the continuation of a witness on Hope Street when most other churches in the area have closed, leaves you with the clear impression that where the gospel is truly valued, and the central doctrines of protestant faith are maintained without compromise, the Lord will faithfully own them – whatever secondary doctrinal issues are, or are not, the ‘flavour of the month’.
Mr Charmley is to be congratulated for his careful research and helpful analysis. If you are interested in Congregationalism, Early British Pentecostalism, or indeed the general state of British Evangelicalism in the 20th-21st centuries, there is much in the book to divert and educate you. This could have been an introverted and very parochial volume. It is not, and I hope that many others will enjoy it as much as I have.
Do you still need convincing? The account of two ministers who fell off a pavement while discussing Bible versions in the middle of the night is worth the cover price alone! While this book might not be an easy read for all ability levels, I am sure that it is a deeply useful one for all who are willing to make the effort!