This is the day that … William Edwin Robert Sangster was born “on a blazing hot” day in 1900 … in London. (The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church spells it Edwyn … but both biographers, including his son, spell it Edwin!).
His parents attended the Church of England, but young William found the Radnor Street Wesleyan Chapel more to his liking. 10 year-old William was led to the place of conversion by Mr Wimpory, curator of the Chapel and a church officer at Radnor Street.
At the age of 16 he set eyes upon Margaret Conway, and fell in love. At 17 he became a local preacher.
At 18 he joined the Queen’s Royal Regiment – “nightly he prayed by his bunk while army boots were hurled at him…” (page 13). And he led a prayer and Bible study group with a few other soldiers. In Germany a Methodist chaplain called upon him – “had a walk and a talk and went away again…” Sangster, one biographer tells us, forgot about this meeting until a letter arrived informing him “that he had been accepted for the Methodist ministry”! (Sangster of Westminster, page 14).
So when the army days were over he entered Handsworth College …
His first sermon (before other theological students – a terrifying ordeal) was a disaster. “The delivery was spoiled by a Cockney accent so strong that it was almost comic” (page 16). So young Sangster worked hard at voice production.
He was ordained on 27 July, 1926 … and married his Margaret on 12 August the same year.
After some smaller parishes he followed Dr Leslie Weatherhead to Leeds Methodist Church. Paul Sangster, in his biography of his father, speaks of the many differences between the two pulpiteers – but, he says, they were “one in the fundamentals” (page 111). Anyone familiar with Weatherhead’s outrageous liberal theology must therefore wonder what Sangster really believed!
From Leeds he moved to Westminster Central Hall (where he followed Dinsdale Young, who was an evangelical!) … he was appointed President of the Methodist Conference … and wrote a strong defence of Wesley’s Christian Perfection doctrine, The Path to Perfection. Likewise volumes on the art of preaching and books of sermons came from his able pen. He shared platforms with Billy Graham, Alan Redpath, Lindsay Glegg, Tom Rees and George Duncan … evangelicals all.
But in December, 1957, the first symptoms of muscular atrophy appeared … the cause of his slow lingering death over the next two and a half years. When he died – on 24 May, 1960 (Wesley Day) – “he had not spoken a clear word for over a year.”
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.