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by WaylandCybersmith



Charles Newville had lived in Bettel for most of his life, five houses down from the chapel. He had been born there and went to school in the village. As an adult, he would cycle each day between Bettel and North Tibworth, where he worked for Bishop’s Shoes. To this point, an ordinary, unremarkable existence. What he created was far from unremarkable.

In the months following Charlotte Cowan's healing, more and more people flocked to the chapel. There were so many people coming to the meetings, that it affected the life of the village. There were complaints about the parking of cars, people loudly praising and worshiping in the streets, noisy meetings that went on past midnight, and litter in the streets and hedgerows.

Some villagers decided to take matters into their own hands. They banged on the door of the Manse, where Christopher Stoneham lived, and demanded he left Bettel. Stoneham invited them in and asked them to tell him their grievances, He just sat there, listening. After everything had been said, Stoneham addressed each and every point. The men left a lot calmer, no longer wanting to kick Stoneham out, but still needed convincing that he was as good as his word.

The Manse and Chapel had good sized front garden. A force of volunteers turned it into a car park. That answered the complaint about parking problems.

There would be no singing or other loud worship after 10 pm. That answered the problem about noise.

A team of Chapel People, as they became known, would ensure that everywhere was tidy after the meetings. They could sometimes be seen in the streets of Bettel, picking up rubbish, into the early hours of the morning.

Accommodation had quickly became a problem, despite many people opening their homes to visitors. Stoneham brought a teaching on Acts chapter two, where the fledgling church of about a hundred and twenty people had to support three thousand new members.

It was Charles Newville that began the next phase. The following is an extract from his testimony, provided by Wild Olive Shoot.

I was very content with my life. I had all I wanted; a roof over my head, clothes, food, a job. Then I saw these crowds pressed in around the doorway of the chapel. Now, I had never been a religious man. My mother did try to get me to go to Sunday School at the chapel when I was young, but that was more to get me out of the way. I made such a fuss that she gave up the idea. I never went since.

I knew there was a window down an alley by the chapel. I say alley, it was barely a foot wide. I squeezed myself through and listened at the window.

Christopher was talking about how Jesus has given all who trust Him the power to do as He did by means of the Holy Spirit. Well, that sounded crazy to me. Then they all started speaking and singing in tongues. I was convinced. I got out of there faster than you could say it. Back home, I told Mum what I had heard, thinking she would laugh. But she didn’t.

Mum had been sick for some time, and she had read about people being healed at the chapel. However, she did not have the courage or faith to go into the chapel for herself. That is when I started going to the meetings. Not that I was a believer, but I loved my mother. I waited until the end, then I went forward for prayer, and they would pray with me for Mum. Whether or not it was real or imagination, Mum did seem a little better after the prayer. However, she did die a few months later, and no amount of prayer could bring her back.

I had become friends with George Clearwater and Howard Anderson. George came from Tovesderry, and Howard came from Dane’s Tree. Both some distance away. We got together and thought, as they spent more time in Bettel than in their own towns, that they should move in with me. It seemed obvious. Mum had passed away by this time, so I had plenty of space, and we agreed to share all the expense.

So, my house was the first Hospitality House, as we called them. Many others were to follow. We were also the first to have a Common Purse. That is, we put all our money together. We paid all the bills from the pot, and only took for ourselves what we agreed between us.

It was actually after this time that I was baptized and officially joined the Chapel People.”

Sharing houses became more and more common among the Chapel People. Within eight years, there were twelve Hospitality Houses. Ten were in Bettel and the nearby villages, two were in North Tibworth. In 1975, the Chapel People bought nearby Granhurst Hotel (which they renamed Heritage House). It was an old hotel, built around the turn of the century, that had become a favorite place for prostitutes to take their clients. It quickly fell into disuse and had been empty for many years. In order to raise the money, many people sold their houses. Stoneham then made several appeals for people to sell whatever they could in order to raise the money. At last, they had enough, and the house was theirs. At it’s height, it was home to sixty people.

Then Stoneham decided that the Hospitality Houses no longer represented the vision of the community. Some were closed, others became full community houses. Further large houses were bought, at first around North Tibworth, then further afield.

By the year 1990, the community owned fifty houses all over the country, but the number of people living in the community houses was already in decline. In 2005, five of the outlying houses had to be sold. Only a third of all community people lived in these houses, and the proportion was dropping.


© WaylandCybersmith 2011


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