Cote has at least one claim to fame – as the oldest church in Oxfordshire Community Churches! Dating back to a recorded meeting of ‘Anabaptists’ in Longworth in 1481, the first chapel was built at Cote in 1712.
Cote has been a centre which both drew worshippers from 15-20 miles away – coming not by car, but by horse and carriage – and sent workers to the nations – the tombstones in the churchyard remembering those who went out to other lands and saw great revivals and hundreds of conversions and baptisms, some of them paying the ultimate price whilst working there. The world wars saw a decline in numbers but then, in the 1950’s–60’s, a season of growth came once again. Cote has always been an evangelical church with a clear preaching of the gospel and demands for changing of lifestyle. One pastor and some members even spent time in Reading Jail in the eighteenth century!
We moved to Aston in Easter 1971 for me to start teaching at Aston Primary School; through that I met Janet Glanvill, the headmistress. Weeks before we arrived, she had been baptised in the Spirit and so had Barbara Gyde. Both attended Cote Baptist Church which was then meeting in Cote Chapel. Rosie and I both had a Christian upbringing, but neither of us were born again. I was very impressed with the story of their experience which they shared with me of the Holy Spirit moving in to their lives, with the gift of tongues; I felt it was wonderful to be able to know God in a more personal way, and began to to be interested. I worked in the school with Janet for three years and during that time we began to attend the church, a fairly traditional church under the Rev Jim Clark.
What we found at Cote was a very warm, “family” church which, now I look back, was a ready seedbed for what God was going to do – it was good soil. However, many people struggled at Cote at that time, and even I found myself mentally arguing with the Sunday sermons. Rosie and I finally felt ready to become members and “belong” – when a student pastor called Stephen Thomas, a young man with a great deal of energy and vigour, was asked to be the permanent pastor in place of Jim Clark. Rosie and I became the first people he received into membership; the first he baptised was Rosie, six months pregnant!
In 1974 God got us to a meeting run by The Church at Merryfield House at Clanfield on a Saturday – at a time when Sundays were the only days I did anything connected with church! – and there God met us profoundly. Dennis Ball from Post Green in Dorset preached on the Word and the Spirit together – and two-thirds of the chapel went forward that night for prayer. I was filled with the Spirit and Rosie was born again and had a remarkable word of prophecy given to her. At that time, Steve wasn’t involved and was a little wary, although he had had experience of the gifts of the Spirit as a boy in a church in Liverpool. We began to share what had happened to us with him and he was cautiously encouraging.
We then began to meet regularly with Barbara Gyde, Janet Glanvill and Joy Carter, then church secretary, and a few others. Then Len and Jenny Garnham joined us, sent into the area by the RAF. We began to pray for this blessing to spread through the church – and we saw remarkable things happen. We used to go to Merryfield House on Friday evenings. Steve also visited Merryfield House and was eventually filled with the Spirit and touched in a new way.
David Freeman is part of the Apostolic Ministries Team.