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When a famous preacher visited Gornal

By Jamie Brassington | Dudley | News | Published:

As world famous Christian preacher Billy Graham was laid to rest this week - his memorable visit to the Black Country has been recalled.

Billy Graham travelled the world preaching the bible and advised numerous US presidents on spirituality.

Among the locations he visited was the Dudley borough in April, 1946.

Hi appearance generated a lot of interest in the area where he and other American speakers visited Dudley Baptist Church, in Dudley, Himley Road Methodist Church and Zoar Methodist Church, both in Lower Gornal.

Mr Graham died at his home last month aged 99. His funeral took place at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.

His visit to the Black Country has been revealed by Dave Pope, a 69-year-old Christian worker from Lower Gornal.

Mr Pope worked with Mr Graham as a gospel singer and performed with him in Europe and America.

Mr Pope was told about Mr Graham's visit by his friend called Dorothy Littlewood, who is in her 90s and founded the Gornal Youth Choir.

He said: "She told me she remembers when Mr Graham and other speakers from America came to Dudley. It was a big event and there was lots of people. They were touring the UK at the time. Mr Graham was a fantastic communicator."

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Ms Littlewood gave Mr Pope a programme of the event dating back from a different era.

It reads: "America comes to Gornal. Special visit of the American "Youth for Christ" Team on a 6 week tour of the British Isles and Scandinavia. Gornal's "D" Day. Sunday 7th April, 1946."

Mr Pope has also performed alongside British pop singer Sir Cliff Richard.

He set up a music group called The Alethians while he studied psychology at Aston University.

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After that Mr Pope was spotted by Sir Cliff Richard and then Billy Graham. Alongside performing in America, Mr Pope also performed with Mr Graham at Aston Villa's stadium and at Wembley.

Reminiscing about a conversation he had with Mr Graham while in Amsterdam, Mr Pope said: "I always remember this saying he told me, which was 'never be worried about your weaknesses because when you stop worrying, you put your faith in your strengths and that is God's work."

He added: "Mr Graham was a great communicator."

Among those who travelled from churches across the Midlands to hear Mr Graham speak was Staffordshire vicar and ex- Walsall Football Club captain the Rev Peter Hart.

He said: "The only time I ever saw Billy Graham was when he came in the mid 1980s. I was a new Christian and had only just come to faith and starting to go to church.

"I went to Villa Park with one of two other people from the church where I was attending in Aldridge. It was something that I hadn't experienced before. It was a long time ago, but I recall it being quiet a remarkable event.

"Clearly he had a remarkable gift and ministry. On top of that,he was very honest and his life backed up what he said. He was respected by people not only for what he did, but for the way he lived his life."

Baptist pastor Stewart Prebble, of Walsall, who was among the army of volunteers who worked behind the scenes at the stadium, added: "I was a supervisor counsellor for people who responded to Billy Graham's message and I worked for two nights on the computer bank to link those people who wanted to become followers to Christ to churches.

"He travelled with the baritone George Beverley Shea and choir director Cliff Barrows and after one of the presentations late one night, they came to see us round the back to sing a couple of songs for us in their barbershop trio which we thought was a very humble thing for these quite famous guys to do.

"They were very simple people and very sincere. Dr Graham just thanked us for what we were doing on the computers. He seemed to be very aware of the importance of new technology in ministry and he was also sensitive to the needs of other cultures.

"Over the decades he stopped using the term 'crusades' as which was seen as an offensive term to Muslims, and spoke of 'mission' instead."

Jamie Brassington

By Jamie Brassington
Senior Multi-Media Journalist - @JamieB_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star. Contact me at jamie.brassington@expressandstar.co.uk.

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