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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Schisms in Glemsford

Steve Clarke has spotted a mistake in the captioning of one of the photographs of a Glemsford chapel. Glemsford has a large collection of Nonconformist chapels. Some are still being used, but others have, sadly, gone out of use. To quote from Kenneth Glass's guide

"In 1828 Bbenezer Baptist Chapel was built in Egremont Street and opened in 1829, and through the years they maintained a strong Christian witness. They also were able to support their own ministers, Mr, A. J. Ward was Pastor in the late 1800's and the last, Pastor Laver, resigned in 1945, The sad dispute which troubled the Baptist denomination in the 1850's had its repercussions in Glemsford and In 1859 Providence Chapel in Hunts Hill was opened. Both Churches flourished whilst Glemsford was prosperous with a large population but grew less strong as the village declined and Providence Chapel is now closed and disused. A branch of the Long Melford Congregational Church was formed in Glemsford about this period and they built a small chapel off Egremont Street, It is interesting to record that the Congregationalists used the Chapel for a fortnightly midweek service on a Thursday, and rented the Chapel to a company of Methodists for use on Sundays. The Chapel was known as "Renters Chapel" for this reason. During the first World far the Congregationalist cause was revived and flourished again for a number of years, but the Chapel is now closed and used as a store. The company of Methodists mentioned above were a church of Primitive Methodists in the Sudbury Circuit and in 1914 they decided to build the present Chapel at a cost of £495, and it was opened on Whit Monday 1915; it has seating for 300 and useful Sunday School hall and vestries After the Union of Methodist Churches in 1934 it continued in the Sudbury circuit and remains today the most flourishing nonconformist church. Members of the Plymouth Brethren have a meeting place in Egremont Street and although small in number their influence in Christian witness has been felt in the village. "

There must have been some friction at times between the various chapels and at one point, in March 1829, this piece accidentally slipped into the paper, written by one of the hot-heads

Our Glemsford correspondent says that several places in the neighbourhood, Chapels for Baptists and Independents have occassioned a schism and a Meeting House was erected in opposition to the old Meeting House, the erectors of the Meeting House refuse to continue in fellowship. The officiating preacher announced himself a Baptist. Here is the begining of heresy, the Sunday previous to the commencement of service the place was taken into possession of the Independents and the doors were locked and entrance refused but the place was besieged by the Baptists who broke open the doors and took possession, I think you will agree such spirit does not savour of Christianity.

This story must have led to a number of complaints because, on March 25th 1829, came the following apology

We confess we acted unwisely in publishing the dispute at Glemsford among dissenters, we cannot make our paper a vehicle between rival parties

1 Comments:

Blogger Steve Clarke said...

Students of religious schism may be interested in thi sextract from a pamphlet published by the Glemsford Local History Society in 1995, written by Thomas J. Brown, late and much-missed vice-President of the Society.

"Ebenezer was opened in 1830 and had a very chequered life until it closed in 1986

Previously Glemsford Baptists worshipped in various meeting houses in the village, some however attended and were baptised at Long Melford Congregational Church and a large number attended the Garland Street Baptist Church in Bury St Edmunds

In the late 1820s it was decided to build a chapel in Glemsford: 40 members of the Garland Street Church were the prime movers, their Charter describes them as Particular Baptists, and the plaque on the front of the Ebenezer is inscribed “Strict Baptists” and they were finally known as Grace Baptists.

They were very Calvinistic in their doctrine and this would eventually cause a split among their members.

Before this, various ministers visited Glemsford, including regular visits by the Pastor of Long Melford Congregational Church; the sects were not as sharply defined then. Financial assistance was given to the Glemsford Dissenters under the terms of the will of Mrs Roe of Long Melford who died in 1726 at Long Melford under the condition that the pastor preached the Gospel at Glemsford once a fortnight. Her will stated the sum of £1000 with the interest to be paid to the pastor. There were several licensed places of worship for the non-conformists of Glemsford at this time and most benefited under this will. Long Melford Congregational Church also gave other financial help to the Glemsford Baptists for building, maintenance and insurance purposes.

The most regular Baptist Minister to preach at Glemsford from 1820 was Pastor Cornelius Elvin of Garland Street Baptist Church who preached in the open air using a farm wagon as a pulpit. His diary states at times he preached to a congregation of 3000 people at Glemsford. He also carried out baptisms in a specially dug pool by the River Glem at Scotchford Bridge at which he claims there were never less than 20 candidates, some almost 80 years of age, this in addition to those he baptised at Garland Street.

On the Lord’s Day, January 20th, 1828 Mr Elvin “spent the day at Glemsford at the Church of Our Lord with a few sheep of the Wilderness”. He presided over another meeting at Glemsford in 1828 when he spoke of his “great sorrow at the seeds of dissent in that Garden of the Lord” [Glemsford]. This dissent was about the then resident minister’s pay which was 15/- per week (75p).

Pastor Elvin preached again at Glemsford in June 1828 and in October 1828 he baptised 13 people before a congregation of 2000.

In January 1829 at a service at Glemsford he records “A new chapel is in the building”. Further baptisms took place which he says “were marred by a number of boys laughing”.

In April 1829 it is recorded “44 members of the Garland Street Baptist Church requested their discontinuance from that Church to form a separate Church in Glemsford”. 8 more followed later. In July 1829 it is recorded “The new chapel will soon be ready”. The new Chapel was opened by Pastor Elvin in 1830 with a large congregation and the first resident minister appointed was Pastor Robert Barnes who ministered for 27 years. Membership included worshippers from Sible Hedingham, Clare and all the surrounding villages.

In 1833 one lady was suspended from membership for two years because of her “Disorderly Walk” and another lady was excommunicated because she had visited Cavendish fair; other excommunications and suspensions followed regularly.

In 1867 a female member was reported for “Communing with the Independents” and the next year another lady was excommunicated for her “American sentiments”.

On May 30th, 1851, attendances were recorded as: Morning, 320, Afternoon, 430, Evening 200.

In 1858 Ebenezer combined with Clare to pay the cost of opening a meeting room at Cavendish.

A rift among the Ebenezer members was now becoming evident; some claimed Ebenezer was too “hyper-Calvinistic” and wanted a more “Evangelistic view” so 32 members left Ebenezer and built their own chapel, Providence Baptist Chapel on Hunts Hill. This opened on December 11th 1859."

9:58 am  

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