Rev Charles Garrett

The contents of this chapter are drawn from a booklet entitled "When the windows of Heaven opened" by Rev Dr Roger Standing, who has kindly given permission to quote from his booklet.

One of the important ministries that sprang from the Moody/Sankey Crusade was the Liverpool Methodist Mission, led by Rev. Charles Garrett. The many thousands that came to Christ during the crusade was indeed something to rejoice in, but one thing that did become clear, however, was that the majority of converts were either church goers, or from the middle classes. The vast majority of the masses in Liverpool were largely unreached, and this was something that became of great concern to Charles Garrett. To what extent Moody realised this problem was not clear, but he did hold a conference at the end of the crusade during which one of the subjects discussed was "How to reach the masses." During this debate Garrett addressed the conference and said that it was vital that they found a way to reach the people and that if they remained enthroned and entrenched in their churches, however much they tried to get people to come in, they would never succeed. He referred to the poverty, vice, drunkenness, and defiant criminality of their city, and in particular to the large groups of young people who were roaming the city and terrorising it, who neither feared God or regarded men, and were the despair of the police. One of the main contributors to the social ills of the city was, he said, the drink-shops that abounded in the city, which was a particular source of temptation and ruin to many of the working men in the city, and as a consequence of this to their poor families. He challenged the Christians of Liverpool that if they were serious about grappling with this horrendous problem that they would give serious consideration to a means of counteracting this by a proposal that he put to them. What he suggested was that a company be formed with the view to purchase a number of attractive properties in the dockside vicinity where wholesome refreshment could be purchased at a reasonable rate, and where the families of the dock labourers could wait with the dinners without insult, and without the constant temptation to drink. He said that they should attempt to make it easy for them and thus help them to resist temptation. Whilst Garrett was speaking Moody made his way to speak to Alexander Balfour to discuss this with him, and Balfour immediately agreed to give his support to this, by purchasing shares in the proposed new company. Many others followed and thus was formed the "British Workmen House Company Ltd."

Cocoa houses

The work of this company soon spread quickly throughout Liverpool and before long it had established some eighty houses (known as cocoa houses) in the city, serving upwards of 30,000 peoples a day. This was soon followed by other cities and it became one of the most successful pieces of temperance work ever undertaken. In the houses a large cup of tea or coffee was supplied for 1d, and as the work developed the company began to supply 1d tokens for Christians to give to the poor rather than money, which would invariably be used for drink. The 1d token would enable the recipient to go to one of the houses and receive 1d’s worth of provisions.

Dire state of Liverpool

At the time the Methodist Mission commenced its work in Liverpool the situation was somewhat dire. In 1876 for instance there were 23,756 convictions for drunkenness and 3,438 convictions for prostitution, with 818 known brothels, and it was becoming an escalating problem. The Mission became actively engaged in house to house visitation, and what they found was a deplorable state of squalor and overcrowding. One of the missionaries found one house with seven families, numbering 42 people. Of these, six had fever, two had been confined, and three were drunk. Another of them visited a court of ten houses, and the following is a record of his visit: -

No.1 – a woman was dead, and two others were drunk.

No.2 – a brothel with five young girls.

No.3 - contained an old woman who had not moved from her chair in twelve months, the house being filled with dirt and disease.

No.5 – a family with four starving children, two almost naked, both parents were drunk.

No.7 – another brothel, two men and two women hopelessly drunk.

One of the key figures in the Mission was Charles Garrett, but in the September following the Moody/Sankey crusade, he was informed that he was going to be moved to Bradford. Realising that he was too important a person to lose at this stage of the Mission’s work, Alexander Balfour visited Garrett and said that it was vital for him to remain in Liverpool, and that if he didn’t he would be unable to maintain his support for the new venture. This was supported by many of the Methodists in Liverpool and a petition was submitted to the Wesleyan Conference to ask that he may stay. Much prayer was made for this, and eventually their request was agreed to, this being something that rarely happened, and his three-year term was extended indefinitely.

The "Riverside Mission" was thus established in Pitt Street Chapel, this being the centre of their activities. Working with Charles Garrett were five lay missionaries who were allocated to their particular districts, and they applied themselves with great earnestness to the mission. In addition to this their wives also worked just as hard as they did, in house to house visitation, leading class meetings and generally caring in the community. Some time later they did in fact employ a full-time woman missionary, who reached out to the young women with drink problems, and also to the prostitutes, many of whom came to know Christ. The number of lay missionaries eventually rose to eleven, in addition to three ordained ministers who worked with Garrett.

Total evangelism

During the first year of the mission Garrett suffered a long continued illness that prevented him from doing a lot of what he had wanted, but nevertheless after twelve months a total of 18,000 tracts were distributed, over 10,000 homes were visited, and 126 converts were meeting in fellowship/Bible classes. It became noticeable after the first year that people were becoming more open to the gospel, and more and more were coming to Christ. In the first five years of the mission, 600 people were converted and placed into class meetings. Over 60,000 tracts were distributed every year, and 200 open-air meetings held. Many of the chapels had to be enlarged or replaced by newer, bigger ones to accommodate the numbers attending worship. God so blessed the work of the mission, that after twenty years there were fifteen full-time missionaries or ministers, 3,000 attending worship at the eight centres on any Sunday evening, 2,000 children in the Sunday Schools and 1,000 people meeting in class meetings. In addition to this six homes for young men and boys were opened, and two for young women and girls. Furthermore, during a period of recuperation in the first year at Alexander Balfour’s country home, he had the idea of establishing rest homes for ministers, and two of these came into being during his term of presidency of the Wesleyan Conference in 1882.

One of the characteristics of the Mission was that they were prepared to do anything to try and reach people with the gospel. Many different forms of outreach were made, and I have listed some of them to show the extent of this: -

The efforts of the Mission were not just confined to preaching the gospel, but also to ministering to the social needs of the community. They realised that it was no use preaching the gospel to people who were, for instance, shivering with the cold, or whose children were crying with hunger. In the same way that they were prepared to do anything to reach people with the gospel, they also tried to care for people in anyway that they could. Here are just a few of the ways in which they ministered to people:-

Liverpool transformed

To summarise, here are some of the wonderful results of the work of the Mission during its first twenty-five years in Liverpool: -

In conclusion let me refer to what the Mission summed up as the changes in people’s lives as a result of their conversions: -

"Husbands have been restored to their wives; prodigals have been restored to their homes; outcasts have been rescued from paths leading to death; drunkards have been reclaimed; gamblers have become honest; backsliders have been recovered; and many who were lost have been sought and saved."

That is revival!