Gloucestershire Baptist church celebrates 250 years
Members at Minchinhampton Baptist Church planning “250 acts of kindness” to commemorate anniversary. By Peter Farley
Judging from its 1834 pediment stone, you might think Minchinhampton Baptist Church in Gloucestershire was set up just before Victoria became Queen.
But the church congregation goes back much further than its Tetbury Street place of worship. In fact, it celebrates its 250th anniversary this month. And it will be marking this with “250 acts of kindness” to local people.
The original chapel today, a "splendid example of 18th century non-conformist architecture"
The original Baptist Chapel (in Chapel Lane, where else?) is now a private house with very few signs of its early features.
But when it was built in 1765 it was a splendid example of 18th century non-conformist architecture, a substantial barrel-roofed church with gothic windows, gallery and pulpit, the original Baptist Church in Minchinhampton.
Sadly, our Victorian ancestors removed or adapted most of the original features – but you can still see its gothic downstairs windows and main doorway.
And if you go into the 1834 Baptist Church building on Tetbury Street you can also see part of its mosaic floor. This bears the date of the original chapel’s 1765 founding – exactly 250 years ago.
The premises in Tetbury Street
The Baptist congregation in Minchinhampton was originally an off-shoot from a thriving congregation three miles away in Shortwood, Nailsworth.
But the first years of the church’s history were disappointing in the extreme. The Revd Benjamin Francis travelled up from Nailsworth every other Sunday evening to preach in the new meeting-house in Minchinhampton. He did this regularly for 35 years, (35 years!), but with little to show for his efforts.
The church revived in 1810 under a new minister, and by 1824 the congregation was big enough to become independent.
Ten years later, in 1834, it was prosperous enough to build new premises on Tetbury Street – premises which after major internal modifications in the 1970s are still used today.
But churches are not just buildings. Minchinhampton Baptist Church has outgrown both its 1765 and its 1834 premises and now meets on several sites, including renting premises from Minchinhampton Youth Centre in a building called the Hub, a recently-refurbished venue which is perfect for our all-age worship, children's and teens' activities, as well as being a superb and welcoming space for midweek activities for adults.
Palm Sunday - 29 March 2015 - is the exact date on which 250 years ago the Baptist Church was founded on its original site.
While grateful for the past, today’s Baptist congregation is less concerned for the future of its buildings and more about being part of the wider Christian Church in Minchinhampton, working harmoniously together to share God’s love with the local community.
That’s why the celebration of Minchinhampton Baptist Church’s 250th anniversary on Palm Sunday will acknowledge the past with gratitude – but will focus on “250 acts of kindness” to benefit today’s residents of Minchinhampton.
This is a wonderful way of involving the community in our celebrations. The '250 acts’ are split to bless five areas of the community, and include:
- 50 acts of kindness to homes nearest to church: delivering Hobbs cakes to 50 homes nearest to church.
- 50 acts of kindness to the clients of Specially 4 U (a monthly church activity for adults with learning difficulties and their carers): delivering flowers and boxes of chocolates to each one of the adults who come to Specially 4U.
- 50 acts of kindness to Horsfall House, Minchinhampton: delivering 50 bunches of daffodils to Horsfall House (a centre for the elderly) and spending time with the residents
- 50 acts of kindness to residents of George Pearce House, Minchinhampton: delivering hampers and spending time with those who live in George Pearce House (sheltered accommodation).
- 50 acts of kindness to doctors at the Minchinhampton Surgery, teachers at Minchinhampton Primary school and all local traders: delivering 50 fresh cups of coffee and cake to the GPs, teachers and local traders in Minchinhampton.
Peter Farley is a member of the Minchinhampton Baptist Church leadership team