During the month of July I was privileged to be invited to attend and deliver two addresses at the seventieth anniversary of the Covenant People’s Fellowship in Great Britain, as well as guest pastoring at historic Orange Street Congregational Church in London and doing research in the justly famous British Library. Yet another highlight was attending the Sunday afternoon worship service at beautiful Westminster Abbey, of which there will be more below.
Firstly, however, was a wonderful week of fellowship, worship and learning at the Covenant People’s special seventieth anniversary convention held at High Leigh. It was wonderful to hear an array of excellent Scriptural presentations from a variety of speakers from the USA, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Attendance was very good as well. There were smiles over the fact that last year was the sixtieth anniversary convention, followed by the seventieth anniversary this year. How could that be? Last year was the sixtieth year that the CPF has held their convention at High Leigh, while this year is the seventieth year since being founded under their original name of the Society For Proclaiming Britain Is Israel. For the occasion an interesting illustrated slide presentation on the organization’s history was presented by Paul Boyd-Lee, and a delicious large appropriately decorated layer cake rounded out the anniversary evening’s events.
However, the anniversaries do not stop there. The CPF is headquartered at their address in Worthing on the south coast of England. Next year will be the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the British-Israel movement in Worthing on August 23, 1916. I wonder if they remember that long ago. This is certainly another wonderful anniversary to celebrate. A century ago, Lt. Col. Barker served as chairman, and a street shop, reading room and library were opened in Worthing at 122 Montague Street. I am sure there must have been a lot of wonderful stories of past evangelism there.
After returning to London after the convention, I preached the morning service on Sunday at Orange Street Congregational Church to a larger audience than I have seen there in some time. After the usual time of warm fellowship following the service over tea and biscuits, three of us walked to Westminster Abbey for the afternoon “Evensong with Valediction of Choristers” at 3 PM. The singing was heavenly. If you are ever able to visit, this wonderful free Sunday afternoon choral program in the beautiful large historic cathedral will be one of the highlights of your time in London.
Following the service, Rev. Ken Kemble spoke to a pastoral assistant to help find the burial place of his famous ancestor, John Philip Kemble (2-1-1757 to 2-26-1823), famous in English theatre, who was honored with burial there in a very beautiful tomb. A large portrait of him is at the British National Portrait Gallery in London. The assistant consulted a manual and led us to the location in the abbey. He explained that over 3000 Christian saints are buried in Westminster Abbey.
On the way out, I noticed that the famous coronation chair is now displayed behind a secure glass wall adjacent to the front door of the abbey, near where some of the ministers stood to greet and shake hands with visitors as they were departing. I motioned toward the famous chair to one of the ministers and coyly said, “Something is missing there!” The minister sadly replied, “yes, and it was a mistake to give away the stone; the prime minister was deceived into doing that, a very big mistake.” He was, of course, referring to former British Prime Minister John Major, who returned the Lia Fail, the famous ancient Stone of Destiny, to Scotland where it now resides at Scone Palace.
Those who realize the historic significance of this stone may remember the sadness and anger that took place on Christmas morning in 1950 when the stone was stolen by Scottish nationalists, before being recovered and returned to the abbey four months later. Going further into the past, another uproar occurred when a bomb exploded on June 11, 1914 inside Westminster Abbey, placed by a follower of the women’s suffragette movement, in Edward Confessor’s Chapel close to where the coronation chair was then located. Fortunately, the famous stone and its coronation chair suffered minimal damage. (Covenant People Journal 21:9, 1914)
We have a wonderful heritage to celebrate, and even more importantly, we need to realize that our blessings come from God, not through our own might or an accident of good fortune. How sad that even most of the clergy today fail to appreciate our heritage. Years ago, it was reported that the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral stated that a great measure of the growth of the British Empire was due to a combination of strokes of luck due to chance, not God’s design. (Banner of Israel, May 27, 1925, p.250) Do we owe our blessings to ourselves or even to some form of ethereal blind luck? Is such thinking not a form of agnosticism?
Perhaps it is not surprising that the coronation stone was so little revered that it was given away. For years critics attempted to ridicule British-Israel by claiming that the famed stone was of the same yellow sandstone found in Scotland and therefore its legendary heritage was nonsense. Critics still today claim that there is no such sandstone in Palestine, yet I found that at least two authoritative sources record the presence of yellow sandstone near the west shore of the Dead Sea (Land of Moab, p.41, 1873; Handbook to Palestine p.44, 1876).
The stone has a spiritual significance in the Bible. Isaiah 26:4 says, “Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is an everlasting rock.” The margin says, “Rock of Ages.” Years ago, The Banner of Israel journal (Jan. 7, 1920, p.7) published a touching message on this theme: “The song of the lamb we think we understand—that is Christianity. But what of the song of Moses in Revelation 15:3. Is it not the song of the Rock of Israel and of His people? So the little stone at Westminster, on which tradition says that Jacob laid his head and dreamed, becomes a symbol of the mighty Rock of Ages cleft for all, on Whom we must build; as well as the sign of the stone kingdom of His inheritance—Israel (Matt. 21: Dan 2).” Amen!