Bishop H.D. Brown
The Black led church movement started with a small group of African Caribbean immigrants who wanted to continue their Christian journey which began in their native lands.
On arrival in the United Kingdom many of them did not find places of worship that were welcoming. As a result these people created their own assemblies which catered for the spiritual needs of the new community.
As the community grew so did the Black led churches particularly in the New Testament, Apostolic, and the Church of God of prophecy denominations. These churches have been the foundation and backbone of our African Caribbean community, over the last five decades they have catered for both the Social and Spiritual needs of our people."
Bishop Brown was a pioneer of the Black led Church in Britain and is one of our earliest pioneers in general. He was among the first arrivals in Wolverhampton during the 1950s. Along with Oliver Lyseight, Bishop Brown pioneered the founding of Britain's Black church movement. He also set up the Mount Shiloh Church which remains one of Britain's oldest Black led churches.
Dr. Oliver A Lyseight – Founder of the Black Led Church in Britain
"I think if there is one person in the country who can be credited with being the founder of Black Christianity in this country it has to be Oliver Lyseight. That is how fundamental he is."
Bishop Joe Aldred, from the Council of Black-led Churches, March 16, 2006
Dr. Oliver Lyseight was born on Thursday December 11, 1919 in the district of Claremont, Hanover parish, Jamaica. He was the fourth child in a family with twelve children. Oliver Lyseight was brought up in the Methodist tradition. He excelled in his school years and his favourite subjects were arithmetic, art, geography and science.
Dr. Lyseight first came into contact with the Church of God in 1935. He did not formally join the Church until 1939.
Dr.Lyseight began his Ministry work in Jamaica in 1941. After working as a 'War Food Administration Worker' in the USA during World War 2, returned to continue his Ministry work in Jamaica. He became a Licensed Minister in 1946.
Dr. Lyseight first met his wife, then Rose Goodison in March 1946, but the two only began dating the following year. They were married on June 11, 1947.
The couple had seven children: Errol, Newton, Neville, Delrose, Ronald, Patricia and Sharon.
Dr. Oliver Lyseight came to Britain in 1951 on board the ship 'Britannica', arriving at Liverpool Docks on November 8, 1951. He became one of the early African Caribbean members of a Wolverhampton church, when he began attending the Darlington Street Methodist Church in the town centre. At first he did not experience any problems attending a white church, but that was to change when a different minister took over the church.
In a response to the racism he experienced Dr. Lyseight began a search to find a suitable place of worship after he met other immigrants who had also experienced racism. He discovered that a significant number were so put off by racist abuse that they declined attending any church altogether.
Dr Lyseight brought together a number of immigrants to start their own church. They first held prayer meetings in a member's home in Faulkner Street. These meetings later moved to the local Y.M.C.A. in Stafford Street. The group decided to open a branch the New Testament Church of God, which was already active in Jamaica and the USA. The church had a starting congregation of 25.
As more migrants arrived in the region, the popularity of the New Testament church began to grow, along with its congregation. More branches opened in Birmingham, London and Walsall. The leaders of the church responded to this development and the State Board of the Church in the USA appointed Dr. Lyseight as the National Overseer in Britain.
Dr. Lyseight travelled the country on a Gospel preaching mission. He was accompanied by Rose, his wife, and the choir of singers she managed. During his time the infrastructure of the church developed in Britain. Church districts were set up around the country, to which were appointed District Pastors; and a national calendar was produced. He was in essence the first national spiritual leader for the Windrush Generation in England and Wales.
During Dr. Lyseight's term in office:
- National administrative structures were put in place
- The legal and charitable status of the Church was firmly established
- Solicitors, accountants and auditors were appointed
- District/local structures were established
- Bible training institutes and regional branches were established
- Numerous church buildings/manses were purchased
- Missionaries were sent/supported in West Africa
- Scores of ministers were trained, ordained and released into ministry at home and abroad
- He was a Founding Father of the Afro West Indian United Council of Churches and a prominent voice in the work of Ecumenism in the wider church movement
- By virtue of his work, the church is now firmly established in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. He retired in 1978.
- Dr. Lyseight died after a long illness, at West Park Hospital on February 28, 2006, at the age of 86. He was buried at Danescourt Cemetary on 16th March 2006. The funeral service was held at the Bethel Convention Centre in West Bromwich. An estimated 2,000 people attended the funeral service.
There was a celebration service and Commemorative Blue Plaque unveiling ceremony for the late Rev. Dr. Oliver A. Lyseight who was a founding member and First Leader of the New Testament Church of God (UK). Rev. Dr. Lyseight has been recognised by the Wolverhampton Civic & Historical Society for this award for his service to the New Testament Church of God and the Community at large, locally and nationally.
"The passing of three-quarters of a century has not diminished our holiness position or convictions. The years have, instead, strengthened our knowledge that without holiness it is impossible to please God."
"We hereby remind ourselves that the Scriptures enjoin us at all times to examine our own hearts. The continuing and consistent life of holiness require this. Conditions of our day desperately require it. The subtle encroachment of worldliness is a very real and unrelenting threat to the Church. We must therefore beware lest we become conformed to the world, or lest a love for the world take root in our hearts to manifest itself as lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, or the pride of life."
O. A. LYSEIGHT, State Overseer. [NTCG News Bulletin – Nov 1960]
"Before I came to Villiers to work, I had the following experiences in Wolverhampton. One of which was on the buses. When I entered a bus and sat down, none of the white people would sit beside me nor with any of the other black men in Town. I was going to work in Tipton. I got off the train, and walked down the main road not far from the factory gate. I saw a woman pushing a pram (stroller). Then all of a sudden, she started to run with the pram. One of the workmen who was standing at the factory-gate watching jokingly asked me: "What have you done to that woman?" and after a good laugh said: "Take no notice"! And he began to explain that: "Many parents would say to their children when they are rude: 'I will get the black man at you'. This was the way to stop the kids from being rude."
Source: Oliver A. Lyseight (1995-08-30) Forward March, Wolverhampton, G S Garwood ISBN: 0952576910
With thanks to: Black Local History & Cultural Archives Project
New Testament Church of God
"The largest and oldest Afro-Caribbean Church in the UK (founded in 1953 in YMCA: now part of the international "Church of God" HQ in Cleveland, Tennessee, a fundamental Pentecostal church: verbal inspiration of the Bible; New Testament rule for discipline/government; holiness of life; baptism of the Holy Spirit. Baptism by immersion follows public declaration of faith. Three orders of ministry: ordained; licensed; exhorter. Lively congregation worship: percussion group, hand clapping, lasting up to 3 and a half hours. Administration by local pastors under district and national overseer. Several flourishing congregations in Wolverhampton". (100 Great Black Britons) The New Testament Church of God was the first African Caribbean led church to be founded in Britain. The church was founded in Wolverhampton in 1953. By 1961 the church had branches in: Rugby, Sheffield, Wolverhampton, Letchworth, Dudley, Leeds, Gloucester, Walsall, Nottingham, West Bromwich, Coventry and Manchester. In Birmingham there were branches in Balsall Heath and Handsworth. In London the branches were in Brixton, Croydon and Kilburn.