Last Week in Church History (30th Jan - 4th Feb)

I know it's a bit late, but here are last week's church history tweets. I've written some of the prayers this week, and I've adapted some of the others from traditional sources.

30th January — Festo Kivengere


On this day, Festo Kivengere preached the sermon ‘On the Preciousness of Life’, denouncing Idi Amin's cruel bloodletting, arbitrary killings, disappearances and abuses, to a congregation including many of Amin's high government officials.


Amin did not ignore the sermon. The next week he accused the Archbishop (Janani Luwum) of treason, who then promptly “died in a car crash” (as the official records put it, but yes, those are scare quotes — he was murdered on Amin's orders).

Kivengere was urged to flee by other Christians who said ‘one dead bishop is enough’. So, after driving as far as they could get by road, local church people helped him and his wife to walk through the hills and across the border to Rwanda.

Safely outside the country, Kivengere wrote a book called ‘I Love Idi Amin’, saying: ‘On the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they know not what they do.” As evil as Idi Amin is, how can I do less toward him?’

In exile, Kivengere worked to establish teams of evangelists across east Africa. After Idi Amin's downfall he returned to ministry in Uganda.

Everliving God, you gave Festo Kivengere infectious enthusiasm for your gospel & courage to proclaim a prophet’s word in the face of great danger to himself; give us zeal in your service, courage against evil, and hope in the face of adversity; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

Oh, and here's a story Kivengere used to tell: One day a little girl asked her mummy, ‘What does God do all day long?’ For a while the mother was stumped, but then she said, ‘Darling, I'll tell you what God does all day long. He spends his whole day mending broken things.’

31st January — Charles Spurgeon


On this day, at the age of 57, Charles Spurgeon departed heavenly Menton for actual heaven. Born a Congregationalist, converted in a Primitive Methodist church (which he’d ended up in accidentally due to a snowstorm), he’s best remembered as a Baptist pastor & Prince of Preachers.

Aged only 19, he was called as pastor of New Park Street Chapel (the congregation he’d pastor for the next 38 years), London’s largest and most famed Baptist church. (Benjamin Keach & John Gill had both been former pastors there.)

Spurgeon preached & the church prayed and many were saved. So many that they outgrew the chapel. But not only did Spurgeon preach, he also led the church to open an orphanage, infirmary, almshouses & school to care for those in need. They also raised money to cover medical bills.

Baptists in the southern states of America hated Spurgeon and publicly burnt his sermons. He was even threatened (in a newspaper) with being lynched if he ever visited. Why? Well, he made very clear just how evil their support for slaveholding was:

‘Although I commune at the Lord’s table with men of all creeds, yet with a slaveholder I have no fellowship of any sort or kind. Whenever one has called upon me, I have considered it my duty to express my detestation of his wickedness.’

‘[I] would as soon think of receiving a murderer into my church, or into any sort of friendship, as a manstealer … the crying sin of manstealing people shall not go unrebuked.’

In some circles, Spurgeon’s probably most remembered in connection with the Downgrade controversy — his warning against the increasing liberalism of the Baptist Union (the inspiration of Scripture, justification by faith alone, and Christ’s atoning sacrifice were all threatened).

Spurgeon lost. He and his congregation withdrew from the Baptist Union. And after his death his wife said ‘his fight for the faith … cost him his life.’

Here’s how one Theology student described Spurgeon’s preaching: ‘When Spurgeon preached the simple old doctrine of the Cross, the pentecostal fire fell from heaven … What could I do but now down before my Maker and worship.’

And here’s one of Spurgeon’s prayers: ‘O Spirit of God, bring men to accept the great propitiation, to see their sin washed away in the purple flood whose fount was opened when the heart of Christ was pierced, and may blood-washed sinners begin to sing [the song of the redeemed]’

Almighty God, who gave grace to your servant Charles to preach Christ uncompromisingly in love and great power: grant that we would always love and trust your Word without compromise, that your church would be built up in faithfulness and truth; through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

1st February — Brigid of Kildare


On this day Brigid of Kildare completed her earthly pilgrimage. Born into slavery (her mother was a Pictish slave who had been baptised by Patrick and her father a pagan chieftain), after gaining her freedom she spent some time as an itinerant evangelist along with Mél of Ardagh.


She began a community of prayer with seven other women in Kildare, and from this nunnery eventually grew the cathedral and the city. It became a centre not only of Christian devotion, but of learning as well.


She founded a school of art and a highly regarded Scriptorium which produced the celebrated illuminated Gospel book — the Book of Kildare (which may well be the Book of Kells we know today).


Brigid founded many churches across Connaught (though she was not a priest or bishop). When she founded the church in Kildare, she asked the holy hermit Conleth to come and pastor them.

Brigid is also remembered for many miracles, or, as the Book of Armagh puts it: ‘through her Christ performed many great works.’

Father, by the faithful service of Brigid you strengthened and blessed the Irish church: through her example inspire us to lives of such devoted service, and give us perseverance to serve you all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

2nd February — The Presentation of Our Lord


Today it’s Candlemas — the day Jesus was presented in the Temple and Simeon and Anna saw the Lord’s salvation. (That also means that today is, alas, the end of Christmas.)

Almighty and everliving God, clothed in majesty, whose beloved Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our mortal nature: May we be presented to you with pure and clean hearts, by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

3rd February — Anskar


On this day, Anskar ‘the Apostle of the North’ departed this life to be with the Lord. Sent as a missionary from Picardy to Westphalia, he then travelled to Denmark after the conversion of Harald Klak to teach the faith to the newly baptised king & preach salvation to his people.

After the fall of Harald Klak, Ansgar returned to Germany before undertaking a new mission to Sweden. With a Swedish church established, he traveled south again to become Archbishop of Hamburg, with responsibility for sending missionaries all over northern Germany & Scandinavia.

When a Viking raid destroyed the missionary school Anskar had established in Hamburg, much of his support disappeared. Yet he pressed on, continuing his missionary travels in Denmark and Sweden, frequently guided by visions and sometimes through the prophet Adalhard.

God of grace and might, who sent your servant Anskar to spread the gospel: raise up, we pray, in our generation messengers of your good news and heralds of your kingdom that the world may come to know the immeasurable riches of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

4th February — Manche Masemola


94 years ago today, Manche Masemola received a martyr’s crown. She was only 14 or 15 years old. When she heard the gospel preached, she wanted to hear more. So she started attending baptismal classes. This made her parents very angry.

They hid her clothes so she couldn’t leave the house to try and stop her going to the Christian meetings. They took her to a traditional healer saying she was bewitched and forced her to take the remedy he gave by beating her.

Manche told her cousin she would be baptised in her own blood. She was right. She never made it to the waters of baptism, for on 4th February, 1928, her parents took her out to a hillside and killed her. Then in 1969, her mother became a Christian and was baptised in water.

Heavenly Father, whose child Manche was baptized in her own blood as a disciple of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ: grant us such trust in him that our lives may reflect his unfailing love.