Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Dr. John Alexander of Norwich: VII.

John Alexander had almost resigned over the Princes Street debt crisis, but the deacons had been able to manage the debt. Or so they thought. Within three years the cheap construction of the chapel was starting to show. The joiners responsible for the roof had not been competent to span such a large space without any internal supports, and the church was forced to spend more money to make the roof safe. Until it was the chapel could not be used. The congregation were homeless again.
Yet the event was overruled for good. Not only was the Lancastrian School still available for Lord's Day meetings, and the French Church for week-night meetings, but the representatives of the older evangelical nonconformity in Norwich came to the aid of the congregation. The Old Meeting House, their sister congregational church, offered its building (pictured) for some services, and they and the Particular Baptists meeting in St. Mary's Chapel (named for its location across the street from St. Mary's Coslany) gave a substantial love-gift of money to help meet the unexpected expense. The chapel was reopened on March 16th, 1828.

As has already been mentioned, this was not the last time that the shoddy construction work of the original Princes Street chapel forced the congregation to vacate it while the building was repaired. They used a number of buildings including the Dutch Church, the old Blackfriars church that had been given to the congregation of Dutch refugees by the city. The Dutch Church itself, due to the assimilation of the descendents of the 'Strangers', as they were called, into the native population, was nearly extinct, and the building was used, as it is today, as a public hall. It meant that the church could meet together much closer to their own building, for Princes Street runs past Blackfriars. Alexander remembered that, while the Princes Street congregation were worshipping in the Dutch Church, they had sermons from ministers belonging to almost every evangelical denomination.

In 1820 Mr. Alexander had started a Sunday School in 1820. Like all Sunday Schools of the period it was not only an instrument of Christian instruction, but it was an instrument for increasing the literacy of the children of the area. Alexander took an active role in the running of the schools, saying at one point that they were "his solace in adversity, and one of his chief joys in prosperity." The children loved their pastor, because he was THEIR pastor, not just pastor to their parents. He distributed sweets personally during his visits to the schools, and the children concluded that pastor had an inexhaustible supply of them! Many former Princes Street Sunday-scholars treasured gifts sent to them by the pastor.
Until 1861, when a building was erected to house the Sunday School, classes were taught in the chapel between services, no doubt a rather inconvenient system.
Mission schools were set up in the city, one at Thorpe, one at Pockthorpe one at Trowse, and one in Mariner's Lane. All the young people of the church were either scholars or teachers in the Sunday Schools.
Alexander also had some gifted workers, and Princes Street became very much a working church.

God willing, next time we shall continue our seris on Dr. Alexander (as he became) and his church.



Anonymous The Man in the Balcony said...

Do you know where the Pockthorpe Sunday school was?

9:29 pm  
Blogger Highland Host said...

Pockthorpe, of course.

Seriously, it was in Silver Road. When the Silver Road Baptist Church moved to their present site they took over the work.

9:28 am  
Anonymous That Man Again said...

The reason for my enquiry is the existence of a building marked 'Sunday School' at the city end of Silver Road. Was this the Independent building, or was it connected to St. James'?

6:14 pm  
Blogger Highland Host said...

That I don't know. Both are possibilities. The only clue that might be on the building would be the names on the foundation stones.

6:39 pm  

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