Personal quest of award-winning radio producer
Resurrects life of a celebrated yet forgotten Baptist preacher
Lessons in reaching out to working class
How do we reach people who are historically hardened against faith? What is the key for the Church to meaningfully engage with Britain’s working classes?
The answer may be found in a towering yet forgotten nineteenth-century Baptist preacher who speaks to us across the centuries in this fascinating biography by award-winning BBC radio producer and presenter, Wayne Clarke. Wayne, who holds the Andrew Cross award for religious media, was so inspired by the life of Hugh Stowell Brown that he set out to revive his memory.
Stowell Brown was acclaimed as the leading preacher in the north of England, a renowned lecturer, a champion of the poor and a friend and mentor of the great C H Spurgeon. After Stowell Brown’s funeral, the people of Liverpool collected money to erect a statue in his honour. Yet his memory and message have not been preserved – until now. Wayne’s search led him to a corner of a council farmyard where he found Stowell Brown’s statue, neglected and broken. It was the start of a campaign which saw the statue restored to its original place and the writing of the first and only biography of Stowell Brown.
When Stowell Brown, a young man aged just twenty-three, arrived in Liverpool to speak at a town centre Baptist church, no one could guess what the future held for him. He had barely preached a sermon before and had been a Baptist for only a matter of months. He had no pastoral skills. But for the next forty years he led that same church and pioneered multiple initiatives to reach and serve the poor. Following his death, many thousands lined the streets for his funeral.
Wayne says, ‘As I have discovered more about the life of Hugh Stowell Brown, I have got to know a complex man who dealt with much personal grief, loss and insecurity, and a man who struggled with his attitude to money. But I have discovered a man whose whole-hearted faith and love of the people around him led him to use his natural abilities to improve his corner of the world. He was able to reach out to all parts of his society in a city full of poverty and hunger, and many living in terrible conditions.’
Hugh Stowell Brown’s life story, taken as a whole, teaches us that when we use the gifts we have for others, we can blossom where we are planted and improve the world around us. In a generation where the Church struggles to reach working-class men in particular, Hugh Stowell Brown teaches us that by speaking a language people understand and combining that with genuine caring, the Christian message can reach anyone regardless of circumstances.
A Ready Man by Wayne Clarke (ISBN: 9781912726080) is published by Instant Apostle and is available on 19th September 2019 from Christian bookshops, bookstores and online retailers. Non-fiction, 272pp, £8.99.