Last Week in Church History (Jan 24th-29th)

Here's last the week's instalments of what happened in church history. All the usual caveats apply (i.e. tweet length limitations, etc.) Most prayers adapted from traditional sources, except for Saturday 29th January's prayer for which I am entirely responsible/to blame. 

24th January — Ps Jacob Purnell


On this day, Ps Jacob Purnell was received into glory. Ordained as pastor in an church of 6 people, he faithfully preached the gospel of Christ. Soon several hundred people were crowding in every night to hear of the Saviour. Ps Purnell’s explanation: “Jesus was in the midst.”

A boy in the assembly had been mute from birth. Ps Purnell anointed him with oil and prayed and the Lord healed him. Another boy couldn’t walk or talk, but he too was fully healed by the Lord through anointing with oil and prayer.

Within a decade, the pastor who had started with the care of 6 people had started more than 20 churches across Monmouthshire as well as cottage meetings all over the county. (Yet he remained a faithful pastor committed to the care of those whom the Lord had entrusted to him.)

Jacob Purnell’s ‘last service for the Master … performed on his deathbed was to lead [his] only son … into the light of salvation.’

Ps Purnell had ‘a heart full of compassion and love toward the flock of God, for he recognised the ownership of the sheep and that he served the Lord Christ.’

25th January — Conversion of Paul


Today we remember when Jesus saved an ardent persecutor of the church — someone who was quite happy to stand and watch Christians being killed, who up to the moment of being saved was still breathing out ‘threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.’

The Lord intervened in a remarkable way, completely turning his life around, taking him from persecutor to preacher, from destroyer of the church to building it up, from accessory to murder to missionary.

He not only became a preacher, but a writer. And the collection of his letters still speaks powerfully and transforms lives after all these years.

His name, of course, is Paul.

Almighty God, who caused the light of the gospel to shine throughout the world through the preaching of your servant Saint Paul: Grant that we who celebrate his wonderful conversion may follow him in bearing witness to your truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

26th January — Timothy and Titus


Yesterday might have been about Paul, but today reminds us he wasn’t alone, as we remember Timothy & Titus. Paul wasn’t a one-man-wonder. He passed on the faith and then passed on the ministry to these faithful men who then in turn passed on both to others.

Heavenly Father, who sent your apostle Paul to preach the gospel, and gave him Timothy and Titus to be his companions in faith: grant that our fellowship in the Holy Spirit may bear witness to the name of Jesus.

27th January — Holocaust Memorial Day

It didn't seem appropriate to celebrate a figure from church history today. Instead, a pause to remember those who tragically lost their lives in the evil of the holocaust. 

But we should also remember how many Christians in the past contributed to the rise of antisemitism and do everything we can to stop such evil sin gaining a foothold in our churches. We worship a Jewish man seated on the throne of heaven. 

28th January — Thomas Aquinas


Today we remember the great mediaeval theologian Thomas Aquinas. After university in Naples, aged 19, Thomas decided to join the Order of Preachers, but his family didn’t like that idea. So his brothers kidnapped him and held him prisoner in a family castle for a year.

His brothers thought they could lure him back to the world by hiring a prostitute to seduce him. Thomas chased her out of his cell with a burning log from the fire. 2 angels then appeared to tell him God was now giving him the gift of chastity which human strength cannot attain.

His mother eventually arranged his escape to save face and Thomas became a preacher monk. He went off to study theology and from there became a theology professor and great theologian (which is what we remember him as most often today).

But he was also a biblical commentator, preacher, and hymn writer. The year before his death he had two visions (and bystanders saw him floating). The Lord spoke to him, told him he’d written well of Him & asked him what reward he wanted. Thomas’ reply: ‘Nothing but you, Lord!’

Eternal God, who enriched your Church with the learning and holiness of your servant Thomas Aquinas: give to all who seek you a humble mind and a pure heart that they may know your Son Jesus Christ as the way, the truth and the life.

29th January — Charles Fox Parham


Today in 1929, Charles Fox Parham died. He was a racist & a false teacher. Yet he reminds us of the complications of history, for much as we might want to forget him, he played a significant role in the lives of William Seymour & Agnes Ozman, & thus the origins of Pentecostalism.

It was at a Bible School set up by Parham that Agnes Ozman was baptised in the Spirit. The racist (in fact, white supremacist — his views were absolutely abhorrent) Parham wouldn’t let Seymour into the classroom, but only listen from outside the door.

In 1907, Parham was arrested for ‘the commission of an unnatural offense.’ The charges were dropped and no evidence was presented, but the arrest hung over Parham (and was actively used against him — such was the weaponisation of homophobia) for the rest of his life.

Pentecostalism ultimately sidelined Parham & rejected his false teachings. In Azusa Street ‘the colour line was washed away in the blood’ (although Pentecostals didn’t always live up to that in subsequent years). But Parham stands as an unwelcome figure at the beginnings.

O Triune God of grace, who makes the sun rise on the evil & on the good, & sends rain on the just & on the unjust: grant us always to confess the true faith & seek the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; & wash away every sinful division in the blood of our only Saviour.