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Our History

1900 – On New year’s Eve Agnes Osman speaks in tongues for the very first time at the Bethel Bible College in Topeka, USA. She is regarded as the very first Pentecostal of 20th Century


1904 – Gifts of the Holy Spirit become manifest in many parts of the USA notably in the Azusa Street Chapel


1907- In the autumn, at the church of Rev Alexander Boddy in Monkwearmouth Sunderland, individuals began to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues. This spreads throughout the country and many who practice are thrown out from the churches they attend; forced to begin fellowshipping with one another.


1908- In May, Alexander Boddy held the first Pentecostal conference in Sunderland for these fellowships to meet together.


1909 – The Pentecostal Missionary Union is formed with the object to spread the gospel through the outworking of the Holy Spirit; understanding the need for the whole council of the Bible to be put into action.


1910 – Many Pentecostal Groups began to meet in the UK and beyond; ministered to by such notables as Smith Wigglesworth.


1911 – Preston Assembly was formed under the leadership of Thomas Myerscough, followed by the first Pentecostal Bible school in the UK


1913 – Thomas Myerscough inspires many individuals to Christian service through the Bible school. Notable pupils are George Jefferies, EJ Philips, Teddy Hodgson, James Salter and Willie Burton


1914 – The outbreak of World War One saw many Pentecostal ministers as conscientious objectors; believing the text of 1 John 2:15-17 that we should not love this world but do the will of the Father in heaven. Many ministers would be arrested for this righteous stance of putting the will of God before King and country.  


1915 – William Burton and James Salter became the first Pentecostal Missionaries and leave for the Belgian Congo.


1915 – An enthusiastic Methodist preacher in Blackburn, Fredrick Watson, regularly attended the bible studies in Preston as well as the Easter conventions with speakers such as Howard Carter and other early Pentecostal founders.


1919 – Fredrick Watson (now 37) had become a zealous and active preacher in the local Methodist circuit. Using his talent and listening to his enthusiasm many of the young members of the church wanted to know more of the Lord and followed Fred to the new meetings in Preston.


1920 – Many of the young members, consisting of Fred Watson, Willie Hacking, Amy Entwistle, Herbert Orrell and others, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. They met together regularly but remained as members of their respective churches. Shortly they were asked to denounce and desist from speaking in tongues or leave the Methodist church. Reluctantly they did leave and Zion Pentecostal church was born, meeting in the house of Mr Watson on Granville road.


1922/23 – The church grew rapidly as it was joined by other young people who began to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They now met in the Y.M.C.A building and held regular services in the open air underneath the Blackburn market clock tower. This became a regular witness which lasted over 20 years and saw many people come to know the Lord.


1924 – Fred Watson became a founding signatory for an association of Pentecostal churches called the Assemblies of God. This formed the British Assemblies of God, on 1st February 1924. The first conference of the 26 church Association was held on the 9th May 1924.

The growing church in Blackburn found a home and building on Cort Street. It was a redundant Church Army hall.


1927 – Amy Entwistle leaves Zion to become its first AOG Missionary. She went to work with James Salter and William Burton in the Belgian Congo. Amy was just a mill worker from Blackburn, who taught herself French whilst operating her loom, proving that the Lord miraculously uses ordinary people to do His extraordinary work.


1928 – Fred Watson, who also worked for the Prudential as well as being the pastor of Zion, was transferred to work in Liverpool. However, he remained as Pastor driving back every weekend. He is assisted by Mr Watsons Young men, including William Hacking.


1930/37 – The Assembly sent out around 30 individuals to various mission fields, from Holland to china, simple men who took the Gospel. They interviewed kings and were tortured in Japanese internment camps for Christ. As well as the many Missionaries, Blackburn also founded many satellite works, including Leyland, Great Harwood, Oswaldtwistle, Bolton, Haslingden and many, many more. All this from an Assembly still holding its Sunday evening service under a clock tower! When we are willing it only needs a few to affect the world. In these early years, the small Assembly of Blackburn could be felt around the world, as they pressed on to share the message of the coming kingdom of God.


1938 – In August, the church moved from the Cort street Mission to the former Zion Primitive Methodist chapel on Montague street, it had the capacity to seat 500 people.


1943 – Fred Watson retires from the Prudential and tells the Lord, if you give me ten more years I will serve you full time. Both Fred and the Lord are faithful to the promise.


1953 - Fred Watson dies on 28th January 1953, that evening the first ever meeting of Elders takes place. They appoint Willie Hacking, who had been a missionary in Holland and pastored a number of churches, to become the Pastor.


1956 - After returning from India, Pastor Lawrence Livesey takes the helm. He is a fiery and lively preacher of the Gospel.


1960 – The Livesey’s are called back to India to continue the work they had planted (now a thriving work with many thousands won for Christ).


1960 – Reginald J Hayes becomes the pastor, the first one appointed from outside of the assembly. He and his Austrian wife came from Royston to take the Pastorate on.


1968 – Malcom Hayes, Pastor Hayes son, begins the first ever youth group to be run at the Blackburn Assembly.


1972 – The Zion Chapel building comes under a compulsory purchase order and a new modern building is constructed on Wensley Road (this is the current home of the Blackburn assembly). The building is constructed for the cost of £46,000 and is registered for worship and marriages. The building contains resources to see a move of God in Blackburn. It also contains a flat on the back of the building for the Pastor and family to live in.


1974 – Pastor Hayes retires at the beginning of the year. It is several months until a new Pastor is appointed. Kenneth Calder is inducted in November of this year, but only stays for a short while, leaving to go into full time Radio Ministry in 1976.


1977 – Pastor Willie Roy takes on the church, but due to disagreements leaves after just 9 months. This is a period of instability in the Blackburn assembly’s history and the ministry is continued for a number of years by the eldership.


1979 – In March, Colin Thomas becomes the Pastor, moving from Wales with His wife Dianne and two sons. His Pastorate lasts for the longest period since Fred Watson. During their tenure the youth group develops and a children’s ministry. But the period is marred by heavy handed pastoral work, which caused many hurts that are still held onto today. Sometimes we try to hold on to the past without understanding what the zeal of those early years really was, or where it came from. It wasn’t a leadership led legalistic domination for the congregation to be Holy, but an example led desire to serve the Lord because we have loved Him.


1992 – The first church holiday to Israel.


1994 – The Thomas family leave in October to work for the Shaftesbury society.  


1995 - Pastor John and Pauline Perkins are inducted to the pastorate.  John is also the treasure of the Pentecostal Child Care Association (now C.C.P.A.S) They set up an office within the church which continues till December 2015; long after John had left.


1996 - Home groups were introduced.


1997 – A new Church Council was established to meet the needs of the Model Deed and of the Assembly which had been adopted by the trustees. This provided the legal framework by which all AOG churches would comply with the Charitable status under which churches in England are required to work.


1998 – The Freehold of the property on Wensley Road is secured on the church buildings 25th anniversary. Willie Hacking is invited to return and minister at the event, aged 96.


1999 – A new leadership team and trust document are implemented by Pastor Perkins. These allow for the church to minister once again according to the word of God. The new leadership team support the vision and carry the burden of the Spiritual oversight. The current Elders, (many who had been serving since the night of Fred Watsons death) step down to allow for the new structure to take place.


2004/2006 – New elders are appointed into the Fellowship.   An influx of asylum seekers, mainly from Iran and Eritrea changed the face of Zion. The church grows to over 140 attendees on a regular basis, with youth and children’s work well established. The Church branches out its Children’s ministry into the Accrington Road area of the town. The Building requires a great deal of maintenance as well as modernising to make way for new Disability legislation. New toilets are built, along with a purpose built Kitchen and store, new carpets throughout and a new entrance.


2007 - In early 2007 Pastor John and Pauline Perkins retired from the ministry and the New Eldership set about finding a new Pastor. Later that year Ian Ferguson was inducted into the pastorate and enrolled on the fast tracking accreditation programme through Mattersey Hall (the AOG Bible college). Ian begins by changing the name of the church from Zion Pentecostal Church to Grace Community Church


2012 – Ian Ferguson leaves after a period of decline for the church to take up the post of Development Manager for Cornerstone Health Care Group. The congregation stands at just 30 members and much of the leadership team, Elders, and Asylum seekers have left. An interim year begins where a faithful few hold on to the reins of the church in a desperate bid to keep the church open. They do exceptionally well and begin to rebuild whilst looking for a replacement Pastor. They begin by restructuring the finances and then raising amongst themselves £11,000 to renovate the minister flat which was in a state of disrepair. The group continue to hold Sunday services and come with a creative approach to the Sunday evening gospel services, changing them to a Café church style. They create a significant online presence which sees a number of new visitors. The church begins to grow.


2013 - Jamie Boulton is brought in to Pastor the church as his first ever Pastorate and he and his family move from a former mining village in Staffordshire. Jamie is asked to come and build a now none existent church structure and begins by creating a new approach to leadership for Grace, a flat leadership model, with no Pastor controlling, but allowing the Holy Spirit to direct each individual and a structure which gives them all the support they need to complete the Work the Lord has put in their hearts to do. Deacons are no longer responsible for maintenance, but now oversee departments, resourcing our activities. Elders are no longer the leaders of the church, but spiritual shepherds who look to encourage individuals to grow in the Lord, through visiting, praying and bearing them on their hearts. The Pastor is no longer the man in charge, but instead looks to equip people to find what the Lord has given them to do, through the teaching of the word, and mentoring. The Church council is reformed and a new treasurer is appointed after the absence of one for some time. The church council are now responsible for all financial and legal decisions and the meeting is open for anybody to observe. A Spiritual oversight is formed to lead the Spiritual growth of the church. The congregation reviews the Pastor once a year, all financial and legal decisions are voted on by representatives of the departments. Evangelism is activity led. The teaching of the word is paramount. Weekly Bible studies are reintroduced as are two weekly prayer meetings. A new vision is introduced ‘That we as a church may know Jesus as beloved, that we may study His word that we know Him better, and that we share that with all the world we inhabit’. Now begins the journey of filling these positions.


2014 – The church takes a step of faith and give £24,000 to replace the old defunct church heating and main church windows. Just 20 people give the total amount needed, it is a miraculous gift. The outside back passage way is cleared of over 8 tonnes of tiles along with a new patio door to allow more space to be used for the church activities. A further 6 tonnes of tiles are found to have been left on the church’s flat roof and a working party removes them in two large skips. A meeting for those over the age of 55 is reintroduced into the Church and a Prayer for Israel meeting is held once a month.


2015 – The church is blessed by the Lord for its faithfulness and the prayer of Jabez ‘enlarge the place of our tent’ is answered as they are given, free of charge, the former Great Harwood assembly building ‘Towngate Pentecostal church’. The Church council decide unanimously to take the project on with the view of planting a new and vibrant church in the Hyndburn area. The building is in a state of disrepair and the process of rebuilding begins, with first stripping it out.


2016 – The church begins to reach out in a year of sowing. Holding its first evangelistic outreach to the over 55’s on June 21st. The teaching series ‘Rebuilding from the ashes’ begins; can we continue on from the zeal of our founding fathers as the church moves towards it 100th birthday? A general call is put out to all those who are looking to serve the Lord, ‘Grace Church Blackburn needs you’!

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