|Rushden Echo, 24th August 1900, transcribed by Kay Collins
Succoth Church - Dispute in 1900
Extraordinary Scenes in a Rushden Chapel
Rev J Crook and his Flock
A Sensational Sunday The Police Called In
Both Sides of the Dispute
Scenes of unparalleled disorder took place last Sunday in the Succoth Strict Baptist Chapel, Rushden, and in the adjoining schoolroom, the climax of a disagreement which has long existed between the pastor of the church (Rev J Crook) and the superintendent of the Sunday school (Mr Z Newell, who is a well-known Co-operator and Forester and who was for some years the vice-chairman of the Rushden School Board). There are two sides to every question, and, in view of the widespread sensation caused by last Sunday’s doings, we have opened our columns so that each party in the dispute may give his version of the affair. Briefly it may be stated that the pastor took charge of the school premises last week by having new locks and bolts put on the doors but the superintendent and teachers effected an entrance and opened the school in the usual way. Defeated in this matter, Mr Crook, who took with him
The Inspector of Police
at Rushden, said that the chapel premises at least were vested in him as the minister and he would not allow the classes to be taken into the chapel as the custom has been. As he blocked the entrance to the chapel by standing in the doorway and preventing the children entering therein, Mr Crook was requested to stand on one side. This he refused to do from time to time until at last Mr Newell forcibly pushed the pastor from the doorway. At the morning and evening services Mr Crook referred to what had taken place, and at night some expressions of dissent were made to his remarks mingled with counter cries of approval. The excitement was intense, many people in the congregation talking loudly about the events of the day and giving audible expression to their sympathies with one side or the other. It was at this point impossible for the pastor to make himself heard, and he closed the service by giving out the doxology. Afterwards at least half the congregation remained arguing the pros and cons of the case.
Interview with Mr Z Newell
In the course of a chat with Mr Z Newell, a representative of the Rushden Echo elicited that gentleman’s views upon the situation.
“I have been superintendent of the Sunday school for 5½years,” said Mr Newell, “having been appointed to that post a couple of years or more before Mr Crook became pastor of the church. I was duly elected superintendent at the annual meeting of the teachers and officers. It is 37 years since I joined the church at Succoth. Part of this time I lived at Irthlingborough, and I used to walk over to Rushden every Sunday. During the period with which I have been associated with the Succoth Chapel we have had three pastors before Mr Crook came, and I
Worked Amicably with Each
of them. The relations between Mr Crook and myself became somewhat strained about two years ago, when I had to oppose him for making arrangements for the Sunday school anniversary without consulting with the officers and teachers and, in fact, in opposition to the arrangements they had previously made. There was, however, no disagreement of a definite character between us until about 12 months ago, when I had to oppose Mr Crook to prevent him taking matters too much into his own hand. Since then I have been subject to many petty annoyances, and Mr Crook has more or less tried to rule the Sunday school as well as the church by himself,
Ignoring the Officials
of the school. Up to November last I used to give out the hymns at the Sunday services, but one Sunday night I had a letter from Mr Crook saying that in future he should give out the hymns himself, stating that his reason was because I had had some disagreement with one of the deacons and he thought it better to keep us apart. Since then I cannot say that we have worked amicably together, as I consider he has done everything possible to annoy me, and his language to me has been anything by choice. One Sunday in July, about a month ago, Mr Crook stopped in the middle of his sermon, and, pointing to me, said that I was grinning at him and making it almost impossible for him to go on. He denounced me in the strongest terms possible, describing me as
and saying that if I had been in the Established Church I should have been ejected as a brawler. As a matter of fact, I had made no noise whatever. I said nothing in reply to his attack until after the service, when I told him I had not been grinning at all. I had no reason to grin, for I thoroughly believed in all that he was saying. In fact, I thought then that I had not heard him preach so well for a considerable time, and I told him so. He afterwards begged my pardon for having said what he did. It is possible that while listening to Mr Crook I may have
Used Facial Expressions
but if so they were used quite unconsciously. I have never of set purpose tried to intimidate Mr Crook while he has been preaching. A fortnight ago I was at Plymouth at the Foresters’ annual conference. During my absence, Mr Crook called a meeting of the church, at which he proposed that my name should be struck off the roll of church members, and he threatened that if the meeting did not agree to do this he would send in his own resignation as pastor of the church. According to the rules of the school I should not be eligible to be superintendent unless I was a member of the church. By 24 votes to six others not voting it was decided that my name should be
Erased from the Roll of Membership.
On the following Sunday the teachers and officers of the school called a meeting, and this was held on August 15th, when they passed a resolution to the effect that, until they saw something in my character which they considered would unfit me for the office, they would pledge themselves to stand by me as their superintendent. On Sunday, August 12, Mr Crook had announced from the pulpit that he should himself take the superintendency of the school as from August 19this without any consultation with the teachers. Last week
Matters Reached a Crisis.
During the week a lock was placed on the door of the schoolroom, which has hitherto been unlocked. This was found out last Saturday and I was told of it. As one of the trustees of the chapel as well as superintendent of the school I burst open the door. On Saturday night Mr Crook found this out and had a bolt put on the door leading into the passage which divides the schoolroom from the chapel, On Sunday morning some of us went with duplicate keys, prepared to enter the schoolroom through the gate, and we effected an entrance in that manner, without breaking any lock. Mr Crook’s son was there before we arrived, and he was telling the scholars that there would be no school that day, and
Sending the Children Home
again. Some of the scholars remained, and we opened the school in the usual way. Then Mr Crook came into the schoolroom but said nothing. It is customary to hold some of the classes in the chapel, but when we were sending the classes as usual into the chapel we found that Mr Crook was blocking the door. I asked him what he was doing in keeping the children out of the chapel and he replied that they would not go in that day. “Yes, they will,” I said, and I asked him to move, which he refused to do. He had taken Inspector Onan with him. I asked the Inspector to move Mr Crook, but the officer said “I shall have nothing to do with it.” I went to Mr Crook and again asked him to let the children pass. He refused to do so, and I slipped my shoulder on to his arm and
Forcibly Moved Him.
Mr Crook’s son sprang upon me, but one of the teachers pulled him off. Afterwards the children went into the chapel and the classes were held as usual. In his sermon that morning from the words, ‘Be not weary in well-doing’ (2 Thess. Iii. 15), Mr Crook referred to the 2nd verse, ‘that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men,’ and said that that morning unreasonable and wicked men had taken hold of him. After his sermon at night Mr Crook made a statement and said he was going to start a school on his own account, and added that the offices of the school had in the past been held by members of one family and the business conducted in one house. One in the congregation smiled at this, and Mr Crook said ‘You may smile, but it is true.’ I said, ‘You know it is not true, and half of what you have said tonight is not true.’ Then there was a great deal of disorder, half the congregation speaking at once.
Statement by Rev J Crook
A member of our staff also waited upon Mr Crook, who gives another version of the story. Mr Crook made the following statement to our representative:-
“The friction was caused first by Mr Newell wanting to have all his own way. The first open rupture was last November, when Mr Newell took umbrage at Mr Packwood, one of the church officers. I defended Mr Packwood, and this raised Mr Newell’s ire. Last November I wrote and told Mr Newell that in future I thought it best to give out the hymns myself, and he took offence at this. From time to time when I have been preaching I have noticed him sneering and making grimaces, and for several Sundays he sat on the edge of the gallery, turning his back to me all the time. About a month ago it got so bad that I was forced to address Mr Newell personally from the pulpit, and I publicly
Called Him a Hypocrite
for doing what he had done. On the following morning I had a lawyer’s letter threatening me with legal proceedings for making scandalous remarks. Matters did not improve, and the church called a meeting to deal with Mr Newell, deciding by 24 votes to 8 to turn him out of the church. According to the rules of the school no one can be superintendent who is not a member of the church, and as Mr Newell was not a member the deacons elected me as superintendent for the time being until further arrangements could be made. This was announced on Aug. 12. Aon Aug. 15 a teachers’ meeting was held and it was resolved to openly defy the church and pastor on the ground that the school was self-governing. They said they should do as they liked and reinstated Mr Newell. Then the deacons said they could not be
Defied by the Teachers,
the school premises being vested in the trustees, and they decided to close the school for two weeks. Last Saturday when Mr Packwood went down he found that the teachers had taken the key of the school door and also the lock from the front gate. Mr Packwood obtained a new lock and put a bolt on the door inside. The teachers made a forcible entrance into the building. I went in to see what they were doing, taking with me my son, and Inspector Onan as a witness. Mr Newell and Mr H Hobbs said they were trustees, and the place belonged to them, adding that they would throw me out if I did not go. I said to Mr Packwood, ‘Let us go into my vestry,’ but Mr Newell and Mr Hobbs followed us there. This was before the morning service. Mr Packwood and I went to the back of the chapel, but the other two followed us, and one them went into the pulpit and
Defied Me to Put Him Out.
They insulted us and told us to go to law. I told them I did not want to go to law, but if they had money to spare they could do it if they liked. In my sermon that morning I spoke of the disgraceful treatment I had received. At night I made statement to the effect that as these men claimed the school-room and defied the church, deacons, and minister, it would be necessary for me to have a school independently and to gather in those scholars who had been driven away by these men. I said I could not work with the persons like them, adding that the officers of the school all belonged to one family. Hereupon Mr Newell shouted out in the chapel ‘It’s a lie: he’s telling all lies.’ Many of the congregation cried, ‘Turn him out,’ and others denounced Mr Newell in strong terms, one calling him
‘A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.’
I am told that Mr Newell has twice before been dealt with by the church for similar proceedings. A number of the teachers have withdrawn from the school, and will support me in the one I shall hold in Lilley and Skinner’s rooms, beginning next Sunday.”
Meeting of Trustees
On Wednesday night a meeting of the trustees of the chapel was held.
Mr John Desborough asked if the school was under the government of the church.
No reply was given.
Mr Desborough then asked if the trustees had control over the school.
Mr Newell: No, only four men have any control over the schoolthe president, the superintendent, the secretary, and the treasurer.
It was decided to reinstate some names which had been crossed off the rules.