Canon Hay Aitken
Just as the apostle Paul described himself as a Pharisee of Pharisees, Canon Hay Aitken could be described as an evangelist of evangelists. His father was Robert Aitken of Pendeen, Cornwall, and his uncle was Hay Macdowell Grant, Laird of Arndilly, both of whom were greatly used in revival ministry. Hay Aitken was born in Liverpool in 1841, whilst his father was minister of Zion Chapel in Waterloo Road. As a young boy his family moved to Cornwall and he was raised in a revivalistic atmosphere during his father’s ministry there. As a young man he joined his uncle, Hay Macdowall Grant in an evangelistic tour of the north of Scotland, where God moved powerfully during the 1859 revival there. When he finished his studies in Oxford he travelled around the country preaching the gospel and saw great results. When he was 29 years of age he returned to Liverpool and became the Vicar of Christ Church in Great Homer Street, Everton, where he continued for five years. Great blessing was enjoyed under his ministry there, so much so that it was necessary to erect a mission-hall seating 800 people and a school accommodating an equal number of children.
He played an important part in the visit of Moody/Sankey to Liverpool in 1875, but Moody realising that he had a ministry of national importance encouraged him to relinquish his parochial duties and fully devote himself to the ministry of evangelism. This he did and in 1876 he founded the Aitken Memorial Mission Fund (named after his father) later known as the Church Parochial Mission Society, which travelled around the country holding evangelistic missions. The fire of revival never left him and wherever he and his team went, remarkable results were achieved. He visited Liverpool on a number of occasions, but what was probably his most powerful mission in Merseyside was held in the Wirral in 1879. During the Mission, ‘The Birkenhead & Cheshire Advertiser’ on 5th April 1879 brought its reader’s attention to the fact that a religious awakening was taking place among the people. Then on 12th April 1879 it gave the following report: -
The eight-day mission came to a close on Monday evening last, although the services were continued for a few days longer at Christ Church, Claughton, Tranmere, and St James. The movement has been a decided success. The services have been largely attended every night. The poorest of the people, and those seldom seen in church, came in great numbers, and much religious earnestness has been manifested on all sides. At a men’s meeting held on Saturday evening in the large Drill Hall in Priory Street, there were about present 1,500 who stood for an hour and a half listening to an earnest and eloquent address by the Rev Hay Aitken. Young men who have been specially addressed in several of the churches have attended in hundreds.
Over the next 40 years the Society conducted around 1000 missions throughout the country and saw around 100,000 people brought to Christ.