Tuesday, 11 January 2011

John Palmer pastor and evangelist

Not for the first time in my life I have 3 books on the go at once!
The Discipleship book mentioned in the post below,a biography of Edward the third ,(very long but a fascinating read about a man of whom I knew little) and; Deep Roots ,Living Branches -a history of Baptists in the English Western Midlands.
I realise the last mentioned book will not be to everyones taste ( I cant help wondering how many of these books actually sell!) but it is to mine, not least for the good reason, that it throws considerable light on the history of the 2 churches that merged in 2008 to form Shrewsbury Baptist Church.
 Both Claremont and Crowmoor receive numerous mentions and I learned a lot about both churches that I didn't previously know.
The History of Baptists in Shrewsbury is long (the first Shrewsbury Baptist Church was formed in 1653) , and to be honest ,not always glorious.It  is often a story of mergers and closures, of lost opportunities,of arguments  and divisions; usually over matters of doctrine or church policy but sometimes over personality.
However, there have also been very  exciting and encouraging times and I will blog on one or two of those in the coming days.
One Baptist pastor in Shrewsbury stands head and shoulders above the rest .
John Palmer (1768-1823) was born in Worcestershire to Christian parents,Palmer was an enthusiastic and energetic evangelist and a church planter with a phenomenal record. He planted churches in among other places,Tilstock,Whitchurch,Church Stretton ,Ellesmere,Wem, Ludlow and also outside Shropshire borders in places like Welshpool and Kington.

Above all however he was pastor at Shrewsbury ,a man with a big heart and a big vision.

He arrived in the town in 1792 to find a church in debt and with just four four or five members.Palmer gathered the people together to pray ,began preaching in Christmas 1793 .Between 1793 and 1817 Betteridge reports the church grew from about 20 to 195 despite sending members away time and again to plant new churches .During Palmer's ministry the 1780 meeting house was extended and schoolrooms added for a flourishing children's work.In addition to all this Palmer was present in London in1813 when the Baptist Union was formed
Here is a man with a passion for prayer and for preaching and teaching, who would travel vast distances to preach the gospel, or to encourage churches. The fact that in less than a quarter of a century he could make such a large and in many ways lasting impression should be an encouragement to us all and an incentive to pray
The church still owns a portrait of John Palmer but his true legacy lives on in the churches he founded in so far as they seek to proclaim Jesus,share the gospel and build the Kingdom.

John Palmer lies buried in a vault in Shrewsbury Baptist Churches town centre building.

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