ST MARK'S, KENNINGTON
After I achieved my Cert. Ed in 1981, I came to London to teach at Stockwell Manor School in the borough of Lambeth. Like many newcomers to the London scene, my priority was to find a church. Being a Methodist, the most likely choice was to find a Methodist church to go to, and I did find one. That was Hinde Street Methodist Church which was part of West London Mission. It was evangelical and had a large contingent of students. One of its members, although now elderly, was Lord Soper! However, I did feel that something was missing, and that was the quality of the preaching. When I was in Dudley as a student, I attended Dudley Baptist church. Here the Pastor was very much an expository teacher! That I missed at Hinde Street. The sermons were short!
There was one Church I passed every Sunday evening on my way home around 8:00pm, opposite the Oval station. I noticed the car park was full, and the lights were still on at the Church. The church was St Mark's, Kennington. So I decided to pop in around that time one evening and entered a packed place of lively worshippers and the appearance of a dancing vicar! Rev Nicholas Carnac. For some reason, I felt uncomfortable and left. But I was drawn back to the place because I felt dissatisfied with Hinde Street, mainly as much of the focus was on the social gospel.
St Mark's was a charismatic Anglican church with some excellent teaching, and over a thousand people attended the services in the mornings and evenings. It became my spiritual home for the next ten years! Over time I led discipleship groups, was part of the prayer ministry team, served as a member of the PCC and ran a Book Centre. In this atmosphere, I began to operate in the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, which was fairly new to me because, at Dudley Baptist, it turned out the Pastor was a cessationist.
But the influence of Clifford and Monica Hill, who came to be part of the leadership at St Mark's, took me to the next level of my Christian faith. I always thought that some of the ministries recorded in Ephesians 4:11, "And he gave the Apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherd and teachers." no longer functioned as such, particularly apostles and prophets. The prophetic ministry of Clifford Hill proved me wrong, and it was through him I learnt of others who had prophetic giftings, such as Lance Lambert and Tony Pearce. Another important eye-opener was the gathering of the prophets in Mount Carmel in 1986.
Through hearing about what was happening in Mount Carmel and reading the magazine Prophecy Today (where I sold almost nearly 100 copies each month in the Book Centre, thanks to the fact that the editor at the time was a member of St Marks!) and reading Clifford's books, I became more aware of the issues facing the world and the Church and to understand the signs of the times and to understand what God was saying about was He was doing. Up to the 80s, I had no understanding of the place of Israel in God's agenda. That soon changed after Carmel and reading features in Prophecy Today. Then there was Monica and her church growth ministry, which made me aware of the need to see church growth in smaller congregations, that the focus is not on high profile churches, but on small community churches that play an essential part in God's kingdom.
These are two memories (although there are many since then) of Clifford, especially at that time. One is the story based on his book 'Tell my people I love them' when he shared about a father chasing after his child falling down a hill. A sign of God's love for his wayward people. Then, the shock of Clifford cutting his clerical collar in two as a picture of God's judgement on the Church of England.
I was pastor at Rye Baptist Church from 1974 to 1979 at which time Clifford's parents were enjoying retirement in the town and they were regular members of our church congregation. When Clifford and Monica were visiting them over a weekend, they would accompany them at church.
One of our church members at the time warmly introduced them to me, speaking highly of their work in the East End of London. Following that, I was always pleased to hear their news and regularly read Prophecy Today when that publication started.
Pretty obviously from the dates I mentioned, I am now retired, and appreciative of all they are doing, particularly in relation to Israel and the Jewish people.
May grew up going to Sunday School and church and when she was at Tottenham High School, started going to High Cross Congregational Church, where she was enthusiastically welcomed by Cliff.
He and Monica had just married and she remembers their zest and enthusiasm. She always looked forward to the sermons, because Cliff was just ‘bubbling over’. Monica was kind and more quiet and they made a good team. She still remembers how nice and kind and helpful they were and happy, never cross! They were an enormous influence in her life when an impressionable teenager.
There was a large following of young people at the church. Cliff and Monica’s church was one of the first to welcome the ‘Windrush’ people from Jamaica. Being a Sunday School teacher, May got to know many of the young Jamaicans and is still in touch with some of them today. She said that the Caribbeans were some of the most sincere Christians she had met. They were deeply spiritual, with a respect for each other and God, steeped in the bible and always singing. They had been brought up in the British tradition and seemed to fi teasily into British life.
May babysat for Cliff and Monica until they moved away to East Ham. There they worked with all the churches and restored a redundant church so that it also was overflowing with people.
Later, May went on to become a teacher and Cliff asked her to carry out some research for an enquiry into the Video Nasties for Parliament when she was at a school in Highgate. She was asked to interview the children about the TV programmes they were watching. She was shocked to find many of the children were left alone at night, the older ones looking after the younger ones and they were watching all kinds of unsuitable TV programmes until late at night, with no adult supervision.
May was delighted to visit Moggerhanger with her husband many years later and thought the story of the cheque arriving to pay off the debt the day after the night of prayer was just wonderful.
She remains extremely grateful for the part Cliff and Monica played in her life, with their faith and their enthusiasm.