After about twenty years of not-very-significant ministry success, Apostle Alexander Alfred Boddy (A A Boddy) wanted more of God. He knew God was much more than he had experienced. He’d heard of great revivals but was dying to see one.
He studied theology at Durham and was ordained by Bishop J B Lightfoot. He became vicar at Elwick before becoming the vicar at All Saints’ Parish Church in Sunderland England in 1886 but it was in 1892 that he found true salvation in Christ.
It took the son of an Anglican rector another 21 years, 1907 specifically, before he could encounter the Holy Spirit after which his ministry flourished globally.
The Welsh Revival of 1904 attracted his attention and he made a special journey to the Rhondda to meet Evan Roberts and see things first-hand.
With an undying desire for more of God, he journeyed to Norway when he heard of a new revival in Oslo (then Christiania). The revival was led by a fervent Methodist minister – T.B. Barret – who had been baptised in the Holy Spirit in New York
When you read of him today, don’t be surprised when he is described as the main pioneer of Pentecostalism in Britain during the early twentieth century.
In his words: “My four days in Christiana (Oslo) can never be forgotten. I stood with Evan Roberts in Tonypandy, but have never witnessed such scenes as those in Norway”.
He pleaded and prevailed on T.B. Barrett to hold a brief mission in his church in Sunderland, England.
He once wrote about the influence of T.B Barret in Sunderland, saying ‘about 20,000 people had spoken in tongues (worldwide) but that only about six persons of these were in Great Britain’.
According to him, the first person to receive the gift of tongues in Britain at this time, New Year 1907, was a Mrs. Price of Brixton, London. She reportedly opened her home for prayer meetings that were, essentially, the first Pentecostal meetings in England.
Around the same time, other individuals in Wales, the south coast, and in the north of England, also received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the sign of speaking in tongues before the great outpouring in Sunderland in September 1907.
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THE 1907 GREAT OUTPOURING
It was reported that Barratt arrived in Sunderland in September 1907, and in the first prayer meeting on Saturday, there was a ‘great blessing’.
The next day, Sunday Barratt preached in All Saint’s Parish Church after the regular evening service.
The early prayers were held at the vestry prayer meeting in which many received very marked blessings, and a few came through to a scriptural baptism of the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues, magnifying God’. The meeting finished at 4. a.m. the next morning!
The move of the Holy Spirit thereafter went viral. The news angles were that prayers were held until the small hours of the morning, with speaking in tongues, testimonies, and miracles flowing.
Barratt impressively said: ‘the eyes of the religious millions of Great Britain are now fixed on Sunderland’, though some critics shun them and other naysayers boo them.
After Barratt had returned home on October 18, the fire continued to fall. The stone in the wall of the Parish Hall still carries the inscription “WHEN THE FIRE OF THE LORD FELL IT BURNED UP THE DEBT” (there had been a debt on the building). All Saints’ became a center for hungry souls seeking a deeper experience of the Holy Spirit. The Pentecostal revival had begun!
At Whitsuntide in 1908, Boddy hosted an epoch-making convention, and thenceforth the history of Boddy became merged with the British Pentecostal Movement.
Afterward, annual Conventions were held at All Saints until 1914. It was attended by young men destined to become leaders of the Movement in years to come.
Boddy was God’s man who presided over the early British Pentecostal Conventions and for a few years was the outstanding personality in the Movement. He had prestige, poise, and culture. His dynamic participation in the pentecostal experience positioned him as the de facto leader.
There were reports of people who were rebellious to Boddy’s leadership but their rebellion was tamed and the fire kept burning. There was heavenly singing in the Spirit as if by an angelic choir. There were prophecies and interpretations of tongues that were very impressive. It was a constant pentecostal atmosphere charged with divine power.
Apart from All Saints and the Convention, the vicarage became hallowed ground where many were baptised in the Holy Spirit.
Mrs. Boddy though an invalid, was a woman of strong personality who helped her husband greatly. The Pentecostal Missionary Union was born in the vicarage early in 1909, and Boddy’s great friend, Cecil Polhill became the first chairman.
After the 1st World War, Apostle Boddy did not hold the same place of influence as he previously had. Apparently, his Anglican stance on infant baptism (which some obviously objected to) and his stand against pacifism by Pentecostals during the war would of course have caused the new young leaders to move on without him.
He started publishing a magazine called “CONFIDENCE”, which helped spread and stabilise the movement until 1926.
His life in ministry spanned about 46 years. The first twenty years were uneventful. But from 1907 to 1922, he shone the light of pentecostalism in Britain though the light dimmed toward 1922.
In 1922, he resigned from All Saints and pastored a little village church of Pittington, near Durham. He died in 1930 at the age of 76.
Many remain grateful to him today as the Father of Pentecostalism in Britain. Also, many wondered why a man who shook Britain with the power of the Holy Spirit ended in oblivion.