God's Long Work in Nidderdale

I called at Greenhow last week, a village in Yorkshire’s Nidderdale on the road to Pateley Bridge. There is little there, though it is noted for its large hill and attendant quarrying. A squat, bleak-looking church slumps by the main road, built in the late 1850s to serve the area’s mining community. Yet the locality was once known for its vibrant spiritual life two centuries before.

A few years after the Civil War, around 1653, a Captain Freeman from Oliver Cromwell's Army came to live near Greenhow Hill. The New Model Army was known for its radicalism and religious nonconformity. He built a Presbyterian Meeting House for the miners, rather than a Congregational Chapel, which one might have expected. At that time the only other place of worship was the now ruined St. Mary's Church, Pateley Bridge. Presbyterian and Independent (Congregationalist) ministers served the Greenhow Church, even during the years of vicious persecution (1662-1688). The work was maintained until about 1770 when the chapel was pulled down. I should have been very pleased to see it still stand!

In 1811, the Rev. William Norris, Missioner of the Congregational North Riding Missionary Society preached to the miners at Greenhow, near where the old chapel had stood. The response was good, and from 1811 to 1817, student ministers from the Idle Independent Academy, Bradford, walked 23 miles to Pateley Bridge every Saturday, preached on Sundays, and walked back to Bradford on Mondays.

The morose, semi-closed Parish Church sums up Christianity in Britain and the dale, yet what a great spiritual heritage the place enjoys. Thankfully, even now, the Lord continues to have a gospel witness in the district. Nidderdale Christians still gather together in what it pleases them to call a community church . Captain Freeman and Reverend Norris would approve, I think.

Then a man of God came and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys,” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ ” 1 Kings 20:28