Ebenezer George Rowell at Old Hill Chapel
This is an extract of the page at http://www.ebenezeroldhill.org.uk/history.html
Mr E G Rowell
In 1938 the Church was once again moved to call a pastor. Subsequently, Mr E G Rowell took up the work on the first Lord’s Day of 1939. The Church Book records the Settlement Service in the following words,
Welcome services were held on April 12th 1939, at which friends gathered from far and near so that the chapel was crowded and many felt the season to be one of profit and blessing. Mr A Light preached at the afternoon service, and at the evening meeting presided. Mr Noah Adams (senior deacon) read a Psalm. Mr Joseph Taylor( deacon) engaged in prayer and addresses were given by Mr B Harris (deacon), Mr E G Rowell, Mr A Mackenzie, Mr W. F. Goodchild, Mr F L Rowell and Mr L.W. Falkner. The meeting closed with prayer by Mr T Cole and followed by the singing of the Doxology.
Later in the year of Mr Rowell’s induction, the Second World War broke out. The Church Book records no details of the effects of the war upon the life of the chapel, except that a special fund was set up ‘for the purpose of providing comforts for any of our young men who may be ‘called to the colours’.This work seems to have been headed up by Mrs E G Rowell.
The formation of a ladies’ working party soon after war broke out, for the provision of knitted comforts for the ‘boys’, was a great pleasure to her, especially as a branch of the Aged Pilgrims Friend Society was incorporated at the same time, a cause always near her heart. The keenness of the ‘workers’ was a source of real satisfaction to her happiness in the work.
Special prayer meetings were held, as a note in the minutes of the church meeting 29th August 1945 indicates,
That the special prayer meeting for the nation be continued owing to the war in the Far East, on Friday evenings in the Summer and Saturday evenings in the winter.
During the war years, the main Lord’s Day evening services were moved to the Sunday afternoon because of blackout regulations. Evening services were continued in the schoolroom for those who were able to get out. Not only were most men of military age away, but those who remained were subject to war-time regulations. People could be directed to a particular factory and war work could involve seven days a week production. No doubt workers had their rest days, but they had duties like fire-watching and possibly membership of the Home Guard to attend to. Such duties and the blackout must have affected chapel attendance. The Sunday School New Year Treats were not able to be held during this difficult period.
One cause of great thankfulness at this time was that all those who were called into the Armed Forces returned safely. Sadly however, not all those who returned resumed worship at the chapel. On February 21st 1942, Mrs. E.G Rowell ‘passed into the presence of her Redeemer’. She was a most gracious lady, deeply missed by her husband, children and church.
Mr Rowell’s ministry also saw the passing of some of the founding fathers of the Church; Mr Noah Adams, senior deacon and treasurer, in 1939; Mr Ben Harris, secretary of the Church, in 1949; and Mr E Detheridge, who had joined the church in 1906 and served as secretary, in 1950. The details regarding the home call of Mr Noah Adams are worth recording. Mr Adams loved the Sabbath. He always arrived at the same time as the caretaker, Mr Green, before the morning Sunday School, in order that, as he said, ‘The Sabbath could be as long as possible’. On the last day of his earthly pilgrimage he arrived at the chapel early as usual. That night he went home and died in his sleep, his last Sabbath on earth was in fact the beginning of his eternal Sabbath in Glory.
Another anecdote that could be added here would be that of a member who has been dead more than fifty years. He used to arrive in good time, saying, ‘You can’t be too early at a good market’.
After the War the time came when it was necessary to carry out repair work on the Chapel building. On June 9th 1948 it was agreed to accept the tender of Messrs J Parkes and Sons for the complete renovation of the property at a cost of £350. In 1953 after a legacy of £357-7s-11d. had been received from the estate of Mrs Lloyd, the following renovations were carried out,
- 1. The chapel driveway to be asphalted
- 2. Suitable heaters placed in the chapel to stop downdraughts
- 3. A notice board to be erected
- 4. New covers for the pulpit to be purchased
- 5. New chairs to be purchased for the Dais
- 6. If sufficient money left, donations to be sent to various charities
- In 1953 Mr C N Green came before the church to give an account of the Lord’s dealings with him in regard to a call to the ministry.
Upon a proposition of W Taylor and seconded by Mr C Horton, and passed unanimously by the church, the Pastor gave him on behalf of the Church, the right hand of fellowship, wishing him God Speed, in the Masters Service.
Older friends will remember his quiet yet deeply spiritual and Christ exalting ministry.
Throughout Mr Rowell’s long and faithful pastorate there were additions to the Church, and much blessing. It is clear however from his personal writings that he felt in his heart a great burden in regard to the spiritual decline of the nation and the lack of fruitfulness the churches and chapels were now beginning to experience.
From notes written by his son and published as an obituary in the Gospel Standard of September 1961, we glean something of his experiences at Old Hill.
Four years after moving to Old Hill, his greatest personal sorrow came when the Lord called home his dear wife. It was a sorrow shared by all who came under her care and interest as members of the congregation he had served. The war years that followed with other difficulties and trials, were also years of help and deliverance from the Lord.
In 1944 he married again, taking for his second wife, one of his members, a godly woman who was a great comfort to him in his years of increasing weakness.
He was often very tried because after four baptisms in the early years of his pastorate his ministry was not used of the Lord for the ingathering of His children. Once when he was very depressed about it, the Lord gave him the promise. ‘ I will bring them in’, and another time, ‘They shall come’. In 1955 these promises were fulfilled, and several friends asked for membership. How grateful he was for these ‘children’ given to him after so long a waiting time! He was in his eighty-first year when he baptised five candidates, his text on this occasion being, ‘This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it’. Later (on 30th November) he baptised the 6th candidate, whose precarious health had delayed this. A few months after this happy time of in gathering in the Church, he had a very bad stroke paralysing his left side, but his speech was not affected. The next day (19th May 1956) he had a dreadful heart seizure. To all appearances he was dead; the doctor said, ‘He is beyond my help’, but gave him an injection as he said, ‘ for my own satisfaction’. A few minutes afterwards breathing started again and the doctor said he had never seen anyone ‘come back’ like that, but he could not last long. Contrary to all medical opinion he continued to improve and soon told his wife and those in attendance that the Lord had assured him that,’I am the Lord thy God that healeth thee’, and so he would get better. During this wonderful time he seemed to be living more in heaven than on earth, his conversation being only of his dear Lord, and as he spoke of Him and praised Him his face was a picture of radiant happiness.
On Sunday January 27th 1957, he preached in the chapel for the first time after his illness. His text was , ‘Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you’.
He had always shown a great love and concern for souls and rejoiced in the Gospel he had to preach, but now he often spoke as one very near heaven. One of his members remarked one day, ‘ I could not help thinking as I heard him preach: David said, ‘there is but a step betwixt me and death’, but, pastor, ‘there is but a step betwixt you and glory.’ With a radiant face he preached in the evening from, ‘Come hither and I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife’. He described the Bride and her tribulations – a Mary Magdalen, and Paul crying,: ‘When I would do good, evil is present with me’ and, ‘Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ He finished by quoting the Bride’s doxology, ‘Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, be glory,’ etc. His sermons, though short, were fresh and varied. We had feared that he might be very limited and repetitive but this was not so, as he said himself: ‘the Lord brings me sweet meditations and tells me what to take to His people. I rely on him, for He promised me, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee’. One note-worthy Sunday he preached from, ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God’, etc. Speaking of the saints who were now experiencing the comfort and joys of heaven he quoted,
‘Again they strike their harps of gold And Hallelujah cry,’adding: ‘I don’t wonder at it, they can’t help it. I can’t help it here !’ Speaking at the Lord’s Supper one evening from the words, ‘Who hath made us to be partakers’, he said, ‘I am the happiest man on earth’. In 1959 he had the great joy of hearing his eldest grandson preaching in his pulpit. He was almost broken down as he said, ‘Even the fourth generation – how good the Lord is!’
Mr Rowell entered his eternal rest on the evening of the Lord’s Day July 3rd 1960, ‘having finished his course with joy’. He was buried in Rowley Regis Cemetery on July 8th 1960. Mr F T W Bartlett of Acton officiated at the interment.