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part of River Ministries (Norfolk)

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History of Watton Assemblies of God

Pentecostalism in Watton

The early work 1930 - 1953
Mr. 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. Quantrill 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. Quantrill, and Mrs. Sargeant from Lakenheath Assembly. Keith Munday preached on "Evangelism Today."

Meeting in the 1940's
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
In 1953 Philip Quantrill, one of Mr. Quantrill'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 organised.

The outlying villages around Watton were visited and the meetings were advertised by means of loudspeakers and posters. Mr. J. Quantrill, 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.

Evangelist Tom Woods
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, 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 family.

Standing firm 1988 - 2000
On 9th April 1988 Mr. Chris Pye was inducted as Pastor. Mr. Philip Quantrill, 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 Watton.

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 together.

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.

Baptism Servicein 1992
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 and Rev. Roger Pawsey, became the new Pastors of Watton Pentecostal Church. 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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