During the course of 2022, we’ll take a look at memorabilia from locations where Billy Graham preached and will be locations where Franklin Graham or Will Graham will preach this year during evangelistic events, continuing the legacy Billy Graham and his team began more than 70 years ago.
This month’s feature from the Archives is a brick from the now-demolished Harringay Arena. Over two million people attended the 12-week Billy Graham Greater London Crusade in 1954, with thousands giving their life to Christ.
This first Crusade event in London would lead to several more throughout Billy Graham’s ministry and would garner the attention of Queen Elizabeth II, who would later invite Billy Graham to preach in the Royal Chapel.
Breakthrough in Brittain
In 1954, Billy Graham began a milestone Crusade event in London, England. The event was to be held at Harringay Arena. In his autobiography, Just As I Am, he recounts:
“We had been encouraged by being able to secure Harringay Arena, a 12,000-seat indoor stadium in the north of London; it was customarily the site of greyhound races, hockey games, boxing matches, and circuses. Though barnlike and without glamour, it seemed the only suitable building. When the arena management optioned it to be the committee for a maximum of three months, even our most ardent supporters gasped. Most believed that three or four weeks was the maximum length of time we should plan for.”
The Crusade was, from the first moments of planning, disparaged by the local media. On the first day of the event, one local newspaper referred to Billy Graham as having “all the tricks of the modern demagogue.” Even Billy and Ruth Graham began to question whether or not this event was God’s will – especially when they received a call before they left for the event that there were only around 2,000 people in the arena – leaving 10,000 empty seats. Billy and Ruth Graham prayed together before they left their hotel and then got in their car for the half-hour ride to the arena, holding hands the entire way.
When they got to the arena, Willis Haymaker, the Crusade director, rushed out to meet them. “The arena is jammed!” he said. The Grahams stood in consternation — they couldn’t see the overflow of people since the main entrance to the arena was on the other side. The arena would fill to overflowing for the next 12 weeks, sometimes with between 30-35,000 people still waiting outside.
On that first night, Billy Graham preached on the topic “Does God Matter?” As he recounts in Just As I Am, “Nearly 200 came forward at the Invitation, and they seemed to represent every stratum of society. The unemotional British, as the newspapers had called them, had tears streaming down their cheeks as they came to Christ. One onlooker later commented on how struck he was by the sound of shoes creaking on the wood floor.”
The Legacy Continues
On July 16, Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, will return to London for his God Loves You UK Tour. To find out more about this event, visit: https://godlovesyoutour.org.uk/.