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The History of River Ministries (Norfolk)
Assemblies of God in Watton - History
The early work 1930 - 1953
Milstead moved to Watton to start a branch of Hiltons shoe shop and along with
his wife and three daughters began a small meeting in their home. The family
ministered in Watton for several decades, and even after they moved to the
Yarmouth area, they still came over to lead meetings in the town. After a few
years, in the early 1930's, the church moved to an attic room in Middle Street,
which became known as "The Upper Room." It was a building with low ceilings,
lit by gas lamps and heated with a tortoise stove, accessed only by a narrow
twisty flight of steps.
Mr. J. Quantrell left the AoG Bible
College in Hampstead Heath amongst the early Pentecostal pioneers. He was one
of the first people in East Anglia to be baptised in the Holy Spirit. He became
a pioneer in the area, beginning new works in various Norfolk towns. Working
from Norwich AoG he oversaw the work in Watton, and was Pastor of the church
for a time. A photo survives from 1948 of a District Council Meeting, which was
held in the Upper Room at Watton, and includes Keith Munday, then at Diss
Assembly, Mr. Horsford from Wymondham AoG, Mr. J. Quantrell, and Mrs. Sargeant
from Lakenheath Assembly. Keith Munday preached on "Evangelism Today."
Left to Right: Keith Munday (Diss), Bro
Horswood (Wymondham), Bro Quantrill (Watton),
K. Pavitt (Norwich), Mrs
Sargeant (Lakenheath), Bro Charter (Thetford)
Reaching out 1953 - 1988
1953 Philip Quantrell, one of Mr. Quantrell's sons, felt a call to the small,
often struggling churches in the region, and along with a group of about six
people from the thriving 150 strong, Norwich Assembly, came to Watton to
conduct a month's evangelistic campaign on Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday
evenings. The Lord blessed this outreach, several people were saved, and the
Church in Watton grew to about 50 people.
Another crusade was planned the following
year, and Tom Woods an evangelist from Hackney, was invited to speak. His
letter agreeing to come from 5th to 16th July 1954 gave the Assembly in Watton
just nine days to publicise and organise the event. The Sale Room, down Norwich
Road, (now the National Westminster Bank) was hired and a week of prayer
The outlying villages around Watton
were visited and the meetings were advertised by means of loudspeakers and
posters. Mr. J. Quantrell, then Pastor, reported afterwards, in a Campaign
Review booklet, "From the outset the presence of God was felt in a very real
way. After the first meeting one or two people came forward to be prayed for,
and the next evening testified that God had healed them. On the third night the
first decision for Christ was recorded and by the end of the Campaign thirteen
precious souls had accepted Christ as Saviour. Several outstanding healings
took place and God was greatly glorified." Mr. Woods later wrote the following
to the believers in Watton "The Spirit speaks to establish the church on real
New Testament lines. To gather out of a world ruined a people for His Name.
Tom Woods (1954) Evangelist from Hackney
To establish Christ's claims and to allow
Him liberty to work miracles amongst us, and to endow us with inspirational,
revelative, and dynamic gifts. To place upon all the sons and daughters of the
LAST TIME REVIVAL the mark of heaven, and to lift them to the prophetic realm."
Mr. C. Austin, a farmer from Threxton,
was treasurer in the Church at the time of the 1954 Mission, and later became
Pastor of the Church, in about 1974. Others who ministered in the Church during
these years were Mr. Frank Cantell, Pastor of the Norwich Assembly; Mr.
Lindford; Mr. Hindmarsh; Mr. Fulcher from Carleton Road; and Mr. Roland Forder,
who was very much involved with the work in Watton.
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Godfrey moved to Watton
in 1975 and became involved with the ministry in the Upper Room; they had
previously attended an Elim Church in Croydon. Attendance at the Church was
quite low at this time, but members were nonetheless enthusiastic. Mr. Godfrey
noted, "The singing was lively and a good Word from the Lord was given by a
gentleman who turned out to be a Pastor Austin." Mr. Godfrey, who still attends
the Church, became Church secretary, and was one of the original trustees for
the building in Dereham Road.
In 1977 Pastor Austin and Mr. Forder
heard that the Congregational Chapel in Dereham Road was for sale. A mortgage
was secured from Assemblies of God Property Trust and the building was
purchased. Keith Monument spoke at the opening service.
The work again began reaching out to the
people in Watton by holding a two-week crusade. Home Missions sent two young
girls to help with this work, who amongst other things leafleted the whole
area. Several new people joined the Church as a result of this Mission.
Mr. Roger Forder, Mr. Forder's son ran a
thriving Sunday School at 10.00am before the Morning Service, the children
would sometimes take part in the services, and their parents were encouraged to
attend. Sunday School outings became a popular feature each year.
In 1986 Mr. Austin retired as Pastor, and
Mr. Les Bibby was appointed in his place. Mr. Bibby had trained at Mattersey
Bible College, and had previously pastored at Diss, though sadly again numbers
gradually dwindled. In 1988 he too had to move, to provide for his young
Standing firm 1988 - 2000
9th April 1988 Mr. Chris Pye was inducted as Pastor. Mr. Philip Quantrell, who
was by this time Pastor at Hingham, spoke at the induction service, which was
attended by several AoG ministers from East Anglia. Chris, a farmer from
Ovington, was a relatively inexperienced pastor, but had a strong call of God
on his life to work in Watton.
In 1989 the Church joined with other
churches from the area, and became involved with the Billy Graham 'live-link'
mission at St. Andrews Church, Hingham. Although several people from Watton
were saved as a result of this outreach, it did not really affect the AoG
Church. Relationships with other Churches in Watton were established, at this
time, as the Church became involved with what is now Churches Together in
In 1992, a portable Baptistry was
put up in the Church building, and a joint Baptism was held with Watton
Community Church, who had recently been planted in the town and had
subsequently taken AoG status. 15 people from the two Churches were baptised
altogether, including many young people. This was the first baptism in the town
in living memory and also the first time that the two Churches had worked
In 1996 things took on a rather
unusual turn, when the Church became aware of a large number of Eastern
Europeans living in Watton.
Numbers in the Church see-sawed,
though there were never more than thirty attending, by God's grace, Chris was
able to stand firm, and the work continued.
Right: a candidate for baptism giving their testimony
However it soon became apparent that it
would be good to investigate joining together with the Community Church. After
several meetings sorting out all the legal procedures, and pastoral issues
concerned, it was resolved to amalgamate the two Churches.
A fresh vision - 2000 onwards
On 1st January 2000, at the stroke of midnight, amidst great
celebration, the two Churches became one, a new Church for a new Millennium! It
was renamed Watton Pentecostal Church, a part of River Ministries (Norfolk) and
both memberships were invited to be part of the new church. Pastor Chris Pye
became Pastor of Watton Pentecostal Church, and Rev. Roger Pawsey, who had been
Pastor of the Community Church, became Pastor of River Ministries. The two
Church Councils joined, to make a strong ministry team, to enable the new
vision to be worked out.
The Assemblies of God Church had been
subject to a history of splits and divisions causing numbers to drastically
diminish, though God's grace has always enabled the work in Watton to remain.
When it came together with the Community
Church, it was on a basis of unity, where each member of the two Church
Councils lay down their own ministries, with members taking up those ministries
that would best serve the continuing work in the area.
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