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A Shout From The Attic: Being A Missionary - 3

Ronnie Bray recalls his missionary days in Southampton.

Ezekielís vision of the valley of dry bones, from which scattered and spiritually anaesthetised Israel was to be revived to serve God, largely matched the condition of the Church in Southampton in early nineteen fifty-six.

The setting up of the branch was an act of great faith. What meetings had been held were poorly attended, but Southampton was a big place with a growing population and was picking itself up after the pounding and destruction of Hitlerís War.

Those members that could be found and who attended regularly were, with some notable exceptions, like babes blinking in the light, having to learn to walk, and talk, and care for themselves. Fortunately, there was a backbone on which to build. That backbone was the Garth family.

Vic and Irene Garth had a large family. He was a bill poster, and ran an ancient van that was always at the service of missionaries. They had been known as a "scattered family," that lived way out in the country somewhere, the Garths. They'd been in the Church for many years and had moved to Southampton from Reading, where they had propped up the Church during some dark days, and led it to an era of growth.

It might have been a street meeting that brought us together with the Garths. I think they were driving through. They had a van that drove out of the ark.

Vic became a Master of Photography and was offered a job as a lecturer at Snow College in Ephraim. When he moved to Tasmania, Vic became town crier of Hobart.

We met in a room in the Temperance Institute in Southampton, in Carlton Crescent. Oh, that was a beautiful place full of dark oak panelling, built during the Victorian age, when everything was created for a purpose, but it also beautiful with heavily framed pictures of the founders of the Temperance Movement, and people important to its growth hanging on the walls.

In that place we administered the sacrament every week, we'd offered most of the prayers, and gave moist of the sermons. It was especially spiritual, like the room where the Church met in Huddersfield. After the meeting, the saints didn't want to leave.

Then from time to time the Gates family from Portsmouth came. They could get up about once every three weeks on the train, and Brother Gates could play the piano, so once every three weeks we had piano music, which was lovely.

It was great pioneering work. Very seldom do we get opportunities of opening new branches of the Church. I was happy to be there and to do pioneering work, to help the branch grow.

I moved from there over to Bournemouth to be with an elder who specifically had been sent to look for a house to buy for a chapel for them.

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