Saturday 8 January 2011

So Amersham,it's1973,how about some Kingdom?

Graham Pulkingham behind the lady in white. Max Dyer Cello. Tim? far left. Martha Keys who wrote "Seeds of Peace" behind Graham slightly right. People laugh now, those that can remember "If I were a Butterfly," or "Let us give thanks thatour names are written." or

Tim's song "Behold how good and pleasant it is from ps 133"....and I get confused because I wrote a song for this psalm too about the same time. It wasn't the songs.....that's not the point. It was the effusion of the love and Presence of God that then was expressed in the whole life. Later they produced a book that was called "Celebrate the whole of it".

Bible house attempted to catch this kind of life here in Emsworth, but the inner reality that comes from "seeds falling into the Earth and dying, to be raised as fruiting plants"....only comes from the "reckoning stage" of Romans 6 and 7. Emsworth went a good deal alongthis roadhowever, and some of the late 70s early 80s meetings were extraordinary.


It was Wednesday night in 1973 in the Christian Centre in Amersham on the hill outside London,just behind what is now a Talkback office which produces much TV watched here and Stateside. Graham Pulkingham had not long arrived with the Fisherfolk from Houston and been invited specially to speak. At 14 I was overawed.In the course of one year I'd seen Arthur Blessitt in Trafalgar Square where 20,000 had broken bread together courtesy of Hovis,Jean Darnall,Sergei Kourdakov fresh from a Russian Gulag....and now ,such a key figure in the charismatic renewal: Graham Pulkingham.We were Old Town Baptist Church and I could see him working very hard to choose his sentences. Its hard enough sharing what John's epistle calls Father level stuff with peers,but being asked to share what they were up to in language and concepts that us "children in the faith" (some as old as 70 were in that category,died in the wool country Baptists....spit through the grate USA they'd be on a porch with a rifle) anyhow,that we would understand. This is what he had to face.
1.He was American.
This is a barrier. We Brits just couldn't and still many can't get why no small number of religious folk would want not to conform,up sticks and go to another country. Why is it important to have a conversion experience anyway? Freedom of worship? Now these pioneering people,having battled across wide open spaces and multiplied and established themselves, come back here where we've sat on our religious asses for centuries in Catholicism and Anglicanism, and the Americans ooze this largesse of expectation and general vision.Rather than come to any conclusion like perhaps Anglicanism isn't actually much of a Christian belief....we just assume it's something in the air mix in the States or something.
2 Well here, we were Baptists who at least preached regeneration and baptism, so as well as the basic diffidence to Yanks, this one of all things was an Anglican in all but name.Graham was Episcopalean.
3.He was darned intelligent.University trained.And yet a could that be?
4. Graham had been utterly broken by his own inabilities in the downtown Houston area.While bricks were often thrown through stained glass windows,for more or less 3 months he had sobbed in the crypt. Baptists don't do this kind of failure.I mean c'mon is this some kind of head case come to speak tonight? 1st and 2ndlevellers don't do brokenness on this scale.They have no concept of the depth of excavation by the Holy Spirit.So at best they wouldroll their eyes discreetly, thank God that this way they don't go, and muster up some attempt at giving the man a hearing.
6.If that wasn't bad enough Graham then says he has died with Christ and the life he now lives,he lives by the faith of the Son of God. That his life is now hidden/interleaved with Christ in God. The baptists didn't like where this was heading.Actually they didn't like where they had got to even,let alone where it was heading.
7 The seventh offense which stopped him being invited back was this. He said that we,us,were none other than the Body of Christ here on Earth. Many people demanded scriptures that Graham could support that. (He had a slightly furrowed brow here.Perhaps it was a more normal concept in Episcopalean Churches) Seems crazy to us now eh? Just 2-3 years later were the Lakes and Dales Bible weeks which were ALL about us being the BODY OF CHRIST on Earth.
8. But why do you all have to live together,asked one.Why community living? Again Graham was measured.That's possibly the wrong question.You see when the Holy Spirit fell , in love with each other.We didn't want to be apart.
Sounds very selfish to me, all this love business.Sounds immoral. "Well,its not immoral, and we live within normal boundaries of respect one for the other,and each other's family units.Its just we love to love the Lord together."
9. Ahh yes.Meetings.I hope you have regular meetings?It sounds a rum do. "Well ofcourse we do have more formal meetings,"said Graham "and outsiders come too, or we travel to minister where people invite us. But a lot of the time,someone will pick up a guitar and sing and we'll join in. Others will share what Jesus has been speaking to them.Sometimes, if appropriate Ill share something."

"Errrm.It just seems too free and easy,like you've got no framework."
"Oh yes, we have a very firm framework indeed. It's our love and commitment to each other",said Graham.But already he knew what he'd known on entering the building....the futility of sharing the Kingdom with people who have no sense nor particular desire for Kingdom in their heart.
10."So you sing songs together then all of you?" "That's one of the things we do.And when we do many times we'll sense the Lord's Presence in incredible sometimes we may be silent before Him for an hour or more." "What? All of you? Why doesn't someone fill the time with something profitably? Say something.Study something?"
"At those times,when the Lord is present in that holy silence,it just is not appropriate."
"Oh Baptists are not like that!We'd never waste time like that." I could see Graham using all his wisdom to say nothing, though he was probably thinking something like...."No , I wasn't like that either before the Holy Spirit became real in my life".
11."Do you allow others to minister?"

"I am an ordained priest....but when anyone has something to share,sure they may share,and soon everyone's particular giftings are recognized by all"
"So you don't all take exams then?" The evening was getting tougher.One person's idea of the meaning of ministry was definitely not the other's. Graham said gently "A ministry is there to equip others so that all do ministry. It's the Body that is the ministry." Most of those asking questions had eyes that had glazed over completely. What a bizarre fellow this was? Baptists,even renewed Baptists knew their place in the world.They had regular meetings.Properly planned,set meetings with printed sermon agendas. They didn't live together. They didn't have any need to. Baptists had backbone,to face the world alone. Not for Baptists this soppy American sentimentalist tripe. We didn't mind stirring praise or a measured amount of quiet worship songs,even the odd gift of the Spirit at appropriate times with appropriate content, but the Pastor was the Pastor,and the elders and deacons were the elders and deacons, and that was how the Baptist Pyramid was, and listening to this man....well....episcopalean or no episcopalean, his ideas ,should they be tolerated,could break down all structure.So,no, Pulkingham must never be invited back.

Darin Hufford and Paul Anderson Walsh,Steve McVey and Frank Viola would have got on with Graham.


Or was this only a glimpse into the future, a first fruit thing, which is actally the meaning of Pentecost. Reading between the lines of the gospel, we see a firstfruit thing among the disciples, who moved in power but , boy, all sorts of things were coming up in their lives. certainly those three years of training were incredibly intense and full-on, to get them to what would be "their Tabernacles" as forerunners, and everyone else's Feast of Pentecost see Acts 2 , the birth of the church. here is a later , very subdued glimpse of the community, followed by quite a negative report of the sorts of things happening behind the scenes.

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