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by WaylandCybersmith



Two people were responsible for lighting the fuse that was to transform Bettel from a quiet village chapel into the center of a movement that was to send shock waves throughout Britain and beyond. They were Joseph and Lily Wollaston.

Joseph was an architect with an international client base. He and Lily, his wife, moved to California in 1963 so Joseph could oversee one of his projects. They were both Christians since childhood, so it was quite natural for them to investigate some of the churches in the area. They went into an Episcopal church, expecting something like the Anglican churches they were used to. Except, this was the church of Reverend Maynard Adams, who had received the Holy Spirit a few years before.

Instead of a service from the Book of Common Prayer, there was speaking in tongues, and prophecy. Some were laying their hands on other people for healing. There was laughter, and crying. People were being delivered of demons. People were making up worship songs on the spur of the moment (this was called "psalming"). They were even dancing. This was not church as the Wollastons knew it.

Joseph felt very uncomfortable with all that went on. He wanted to find a more normal church, but Lily was intrigued. So they came back the following week. After the meeting, they spoke to Reverend Adams, who gave them a copy of his book, Tongues of Fire.

Adams persuaded them to attend his mid-week Bible studies, at which he promised to answer all their questions. Ironically, it was Joseph who was baptized in the Holy Spirit first. He was still very confused about it all. The following Sunday, at the altar call, he went to the front and prayed for a sign that what he saw was of God. He felt a hand on his head, although he never found out who it was, and Lily said she did not see anyone near him at the time. He described it as an explosive emotional release. He started shaking, and could not stop for three hours.

At the end of Joseph's project, in 1966, the Wollastons bought a house in Bettel, close to the village where they grew up. Naturally, they went to chapel there. However, after their experiences in the United States, they found it dull and lifeless. They wanted to go elsewhere, but something inside made them stay.

Naturally, Joseph and Lily told their friends and neighbors about all that had happened. Some of them were willing to try this new thing out. Soon they had their own Bible study group that met every Friday.


One Wednesday, Lily felt God telling her to attend the mid-week prayer meeting at the chapel. Part way through, she stood up, raised her hands in the air, and started speaking in her strange language. Stoneham told her that he didn’t want such nonsense in his chapel, and ordered her to sit down. “I said that Mrs. Wollaston should find a Pentecostal Church.”

Lily posted her copy of Tongues of Fire

I was astonished and horrified,” he wrote, “There were at least as many people at this meeting as there were in the chapel on a Sunday morning. I was prepared to accuse Mrs. Wollaston of all kinds of things, but realized I was reacting out of jealousy. I decided to humble myself and learn what was going on here.”

The people at the meeting shared their experiences with Stoneham, and he gradually realized that they had something he did not have. At the end of the meeting, they all laid hands on Stoneham and prayed for him to receive the Holy Spirit.

Nothing happened.

Has God rejected me? Why did they have the Holy Spirit and not me? Maybe it is madness after all.” Recorded Stoneham.

However, he did not give up easily. His diary entry for March 19 reads, “I have decided that I will pray and fast for as long as it takes for me to receive the Holy Spirit. I will eat nothing, and drink nothing but water.” That was his last entry until the following Saturday.

At the Sunday morning meeting, he made an announcement that was to shake many people. The following is a transcript of the recording of that meeting.

“I had thought that speaking in tongues was madness. If so, then I come before you as a madman. Yesterday morning at about eleven o’clock, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. It was as if I was struck by lightning, or plugged into the mains electricity. The power of God was so great in me that I had to ask Him to stop, for I feared I would die.”

In his diary for the Saturday he described it in other ways. “I have failed. God gave me the Holy Spirit and I begged Him to stop. He told me that I did not yet have enough, but I was afraid it would kill me. God warned me that, without the full power, the plans He had for me would not be fulfilled. I am a coward. A shameful coward. I should have trusted God. He has set me on a path that will glorify Him. For that I am grateful. Yet, I cannot but wonder what I could achieve with His full power.”

At the Sunday meeting, Stoneham asked those who spoke in tongues to do so. He invited people to the front for healing and deliverance. Three of his congregation left before the meeting ended. The following week, a member of the North Tibworth Baptist Association called on Stoneham and asked him to explain what had happened. Stoneham was told, in no uncertain terms, that these gifts of the Holy Spirit had no place in a Baptist meeting.

The Sunday following, Stoneham stood before the congregation and said, “There will be no Gifts of the Holy Spirit today. But, if anyone is interested in exploring them, I invite them to come to the Chapel tomorrow night.”

The following evening, about thirty people turned up at the meeting. Stoneham began with a Bible study, followed by testimonies from the people in Lily Wollaston’s group. They decided to experiment. A lady called Charlotte Cowan had Emphysema, a progressive lung disorder. It was so bad, she hardly had any breath to speak. The congregation prayed, and Charlotte announced that she felt better, even shouting “Hallelujah!”.

In the morning meeting of that day, Stoneham addressed the crowd with these words. “No doubt, many of you have come as a result of Miss Cowan’s healing. If you are genuine seekers after truth, then you are welcome. If you want healing for yourself or a loved one, we will have time at the end of the service where we will pray with you. However, if you have merely come to be entertained, I must ask you to leave.” No-one left.

According to records taken at the time, five people claimed to be healed at that meeting. Many were baptized in the Holy Spirit. People started coming from miles around to attend the chapel meetings. So much so, Stoneham had to have three Sunday meetings. People were so hungry to explore this new thing that there were Bible studies every night of the week.



© WaylandCybersmith 2011


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