Eday United Presbyterian Church - Orkneys (1860-1861)

The revival movement which has recently begun in Sanday has now extended to Eday and some of the neighbouring small islands. The following notes on the movement are chiefly the result of personal observation and inspection. The first outward manifestations of the movement in Eday began on Wednesday, 28th November. The Reverend James Ingram, of the United Presbyterian Church, had been in Sanday assisting at the commemoration of the Lord's supper. He returned home on the Wednesday and had a meeting the same evening which about 200 people were present and at which the Reverend W Brock of the Established church and Reverend H Hercus, of the Baptist church, Westray, took part in the proceedings. It was the usual night of the prayer meeting in the UP church, but its character was changed so as to make it a union meeting and afford an opportunity for Mr Ingram and Mr Hercus to state their experience of the revivals in Sanday. Other meetings were subsequently held, of which detailed accounts will be found in the subjoined letters from the two ministers in the island.

It was past 7 o'clock when we reached the school where the meeting was held in Eday, having called at several houses on our way. At every house someone volunteered his services to contact us through bogs and quagmires to the next house, and with incredible kindness they saw us safely to the place of meeting. There had been a meeting on the same day at 11 o'clock in the north end of the island, which continued for three hours and was conducted chiefly by two young man from Sanday. There was also another meeting in the Baptist chapel on the same evening and at the same hour; but not withstanding all this the school was packed full. They have been met for more than an hour before our arrival. 

Mr Ingram then commenced by giving out a psalm to be sung, after which he prayed and then addressed to people. The attention was exceedingly striking and not the slightest sound could be heard except the speakers voice, with now and then a suppressed sigh. After Mr Ingram another address was given during the delivery of which the same earnest and almost awful attention was manifest. Then Mr Ingram asked any of the men present to engage in prayer, which one man readily did, with great propriety of speech and demeanour and with deep solemnity and very much in scriptural language. He then engaged in prayer with a proprietary and fervour that was wonderful in a man of limited education and unaccustomed to open his mouth in public. As it was now wearing late it was considered desirable to separate, but it was intimated that any persons who wished to remain for conversation were welcome to do so. At first it seemed as if the whole assembly would remain, for instead of the usual rush to get out, the whole audience remained standing as if lingering to hear something more and reluctant to interrupt their enjoyment. Although they had been fully three hours together they seemed not the least wish to depart. At last some did leave, but lingered still about the door in groups, earnestly engaged in conversation while a large number remained for conversation inside. All these were asked in turn why they had remained and whether they had any difficulties about their religious state. One young man said he'd been a great sinner, both in heart and life, but he trusted he had found peace. A young woman said she had found peace, but not much joy as she expected. Another could not find peace, as she felt her sins to great that there seemed no salvation for her and she sobbed as if her heart would break. Another complained of coldness and hardness of heart which she could not get over. After each had been talked with and suitable directions given, Prayer was offered and afterwards they departed much more composed; and one young man especially, grasped with compulsivr earnestness the hands of those who had addressed the meeting and conducted the services.

On Friday evening the meeting was at 5 o'clock and shortly after that time there would be 300 persons in the church. Throughout the evening there were numerous signs that there is indeed a genuine revival. Old men, unmasked, stood up and prayed with great fluency and earnestness and in appropriate scriptural language. Some of them told her they had looked and prayed for such time as this and thanked God that it had come and prayed that it might be extended to all the surrounding islands. At the close of the meeting those who desired conversation concerning the way of salvation asked to remain; and a large number kept their seats, while others gathered in groups about the door, some loudly singing and others weeping hysterically and crying for mercy, but with much difficulty all had been dispatched shortly after 10 o'clock.

Looking at the whole circumstances we cannot doubt that many are anxiously and sincerely seeking salvation and that some have already found peace. Many who have been cold and careless are now anxious to tell the others the wonders of redeeming love. There is an intense desire on the part of multitudes to hear the plain truths of the gospel; and when the doctrines of faith and free grace are discussed in a plain and pointed manner, the whole souls of the audience seem absorbed in the theme. 

A letter from Mr Brock -

I have a great desire to give you an account of how God is working amongst us here. On Wednesday last, after that Mr Ingram and Mr Hercus, the Baptist minister, had come over from Sanday, they were very desirous of having a meeting in the church that evening; accordingly a meeting was simply intimated by one telling another and the church was filled to overflowing to hear what great things the Lord had done in the island of Sanday. Addresses were delivered by Mr Ingram himself and Mr Harcus, the Baptist minister of Westray and while the word of life was urged upon them, the people seemed to be much impressed. We had another interesting meeting on Friday night and the church was just as full as on the previous one and many there were whose hearts God had touched. Some crying, "come to Jesus! Come to Jesus!" Others standing up and at one time praying and at another time singing praises; others again crying for mercy and pardoning. A young man stood up before the pulpit with his face to the people and prayed earnestly that it would not be as the morning cloud and the early dew that might soon pass away, but that God would prosper it. Prayer meetings are now being begun over the island. Trusting them that these meetings may be blessed and that all of us may be fit for eternal glory. 

from the Reverend James Ingram

This island has been favoured with a great revival of religion, similar in its external manifestations to what has been reported in the Orkney Herald with reference to Sanday.

From the commencement of the revival movement in America the subject has been kept prominently before the people, not only in the public ministrations of the sanctuary but also by the various religious publications circulated in the island; and for several months past there has been a remarkable degree of solemnity and tenderness – some being moved to tears – during divine service; many have been earnestly praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit  and though tasting of the bitterness of hope deferred, yet humbly and submissively expecting the promise of the father, which has now been graciously realised. Whatever may be it's permanent results, they certainly never has been such a general awakening in this locality.

Being in Sanday, assisting at the communion of the UP church, on the 25th of November and being privileged to attend the prayer meeting held there on the following Tuesday evening, I was fully persuaded by personal examination, as well as unexceptionable testimony of the reality and wide extent of the revival with which the people in the island have been so singly blessed. On my return to Eday next day a meeting was held in the UP Church at which the Reverend W Brock of the Established church here and the Reverend H Hercus of the Baptist Church, Westray, kindly assisted, the latter having been induced to give up an engagement in another island in order to do so. More than 200 people were present and after devotional services I gave an account of what I had seen and heard on Sanday and called on an elder to pray. Mr Brock followed with an exposition of the first chapter of Acts and prayed. Then Mr Hercus addressed the meeting on the subject of the revivals, dwelling on the present aspects of the work on Sanday. Several persons of different denominations engaged in prayer. The most intense feeling prevailed throughout the meeting, which was altogether a most effective one.

On Friday evening not withstanding the darkness and the storm and rain, fully 200 again assembled in the UP church; many have income from the remotest districts. After praise and prayer and the exposition of the scripture by both the ministers in the island, a young man, one of the teachers, was requested to pray. While he uttered a few sentences in a rather subdued voice, and unwanted silence prevailed, but all at once, as if the pent-up emotions of the audience could no longer be controlled, loud cries for mercy and groans of agony, not unmixed with joyful exclamation, burst out in various parts of the church. Many fell down on their knees and prayed aloud, others retired to the gallery in the vestry and some to the outside of the building for the same purpose. Here a young man might be seen moving from place to place trying to persuade his companions to believe in the Saviour while the spirit was striving with them; there, a young woman, her countenance beaming with ecstatic joy, running and throwing her arms around her female acquaintances and with intense earnestness wishing all to come to Jesus. The voice of melody was also heard proceeding from the porch, where a number were singing a song of Zion. During this time I was standing before the pulpit in deep anxiety, whether to tolerate or attempt to restrain such an unwonted scene of excitement. But conscious that there had been nothing unwarranted by the divine master in the preceding services and observing many who had formerly been careless and sermon proof, now sobbing and shedding tears in deep concern for their eternal interest, I concluded that the movement was from above. This conclusion was strengthened and confirmed as I visited the different parts of the church, especially the gallery and vestry, where I heard many praying most fervently for the pardon of sin, for a new heart and a right spirit – the intense earnestness and importunity realising what is termed agonising in prayer. Numbers were struck down so as to be unable to rise, even the strongmen had not only to be lifted up but also supported and kept from falling by their friends. As I proceeded from place to place for the purpose of giving instruction and direction to anxious enquiries, I found everyone willing, almost eager to converse about the interests of the soul, as if the hope that maketh not ashamed had aready been imparted by the Holy Spirit.

A few who were under deep conviction remained after the meeting broke up, some of them acknowledging and lamenting their former indifference and neglect of the gospel and saying they could not go away till they had found peace in believing. After much persuasion however they were induced to leave in the hope of finding comfort in their secret retirement as well as in the house of God.

Seven numerously attended district prayer meetings were held on Saturday evening, so constituted that all the denominations might meet together.

On sabbath, though the weather was unfavourable the church was well filled with a more than usually attentive audience. Other meetings have been held since, but so nearly resemble the one already described it it is unnecessary to give a detailed account of them. The attendance is steadily increasing and it is hoped that the interest is deepening. Some who were under deep convictions of sin have found peace and even joy in believing, others are still waiting for the blessing but more calmly than before.

There is cause to rejoice with trembling, for there will doubtless be failures, yet I have no doubt that the work is the Lord's. May it speedily extend over all these islands.

'The Orkney Herald', 11/12/1860.

The revival in Eday is still progressing most promisingly, even exceeding the most Sanguine anticipations. No fewer than 16 district prayer meetings are held every week in the islands of Eday and Pharay and the places of meeting are usually crowded.

'The Orkney Herald', 8/1/1861

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