Keswick Convention England’s Spiritual Legacy from a Vibrant Century
In 1875 Hannah Whitall Smith (The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life) and her husband Robert, along with a few others, established the Keswick Convention, a five-day conference just north of London for the purpose of teaching the deeper life in Christ. This yearly convention continues to this day with preparations in full swing for their 130th gathering in Keswick, England this month. The Keswick Convention is legendary for its spiritual impact not only in England and Europe but also throughout the world. It was a driving force in what would become the great worldwide missionary endeavors of the late 1800’s, particularly in China, Japan and India. Hudson Taylor, who began the Inland China Mission in 1853, spoke at one of the first Keswick conferences. As a result of hearing him there, Amy Carmichael went to Japan and on to India (where she served for 54 years) and Oswald Chambers went to Japan and eventually ended in ministry to the troops in World War I in Egypt. Vast numbers of others responded and a great wave of missionaries spread throughout the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As those in attendance answered the yearly challenge of the Keswick Convention to a deeper, sold-out life with Christ, it became the signal force in fueling the spiritual energy that carried England into the 20th century.
It was British atheist Bertrand Russell whose influence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries fueled the ascension of intellectualism that ultimately sabotaged the spiritual vitality of England. He married Alys Smith, the daughter of Hannah Whithall Smith, and eventually drew her over to his intellectual atheism. None of Hannah Smith’s surviving children professed Christ by the end of her life in 1911. A seminal figure in changing the spiritual landscapes of both America and Great Britain, Hannah Smith eventually found the enemy in her own camp, an enemy which not only ambushed her own family, but which thwarted much of the spiritual momentum she had helped create for an entire nation.