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The Baptists

A brief history of the early years of the Baptist Church is still in existence.

In the year 1826, the Rev. Wm. SKINNER (for many years minister of the Union Chapel, Bruton)supplied at the Independent Chapel in this town with a view to the pastoral office. At the close of his probation, the church and congregation gave him an invitation to become there pastor. The goverment of the church had long been in other hands. A committee, composed of persons, the greater part of whom were destitute of piety but men of influence and money, decided that Mr Skinner should leave, and they called in four neighbouring ministers who confirmed there decision. Many of Mr Skinner's friends, among whom was Mr George DAY, who had been a deacon for twelve years, satisified that such goverment was unscriptural, and influenced by concern for the purity of the church of Christ, separated from them and rented a small chapel which had been relinquished by the Wesleyan Methodists. This place was opened for divine worship on September 3rd 1826. By the united efforts of the people, neighbouring ministers were obtained to supply for about sixteen months. At that time a young man was recommended as a candidate for the pastoral office over them. The pious part of the congregation could not hear him with profit. Mr Day taking part with them, opposed his coming, the result was that several families who had left the Independents returned thither again, and left Mr Day and a few others to maintain the worship of God (in this little chapel).

Having taken the most prominent and active part in the separation, and since that time, Mr Day was looked up to by the people to carry on the interest, as being chiefly poor they were unable to pay the expense of supplies. Mr Day had been accustomed to preach in the villages and for ministers who had come here, and the people urged him to preach to them also "all the words of this life." This was in February, 1828. Considering that there was no alternative but to preach or close the doors, Mr Day accepted the invitation and occupied the pulpit to the satisfaction of the people, and with an evident divine blessing resting upon his labours, inasmuch as the congregation increased in numbers rapidly, and many began to enquire "What must I do to be saved?" Still there was no church formed, and the attention of the people began to be directed towards that object. Meanwhile a woman of the congregation brought her infant to Mr Day and requested him to baptise it. This circumstance led him to think on the subject, and to examine the New Testament for proof of the scriptural ground of infant baptism, and from want of any such evidence he was constrained to make an open acknowledgement before the people of the change in his views, and of his intention to attend to the ordinance of believers baptism by immersion. Seven others declared there willingness to accompany him ; accordingly they were baptised at Yeovil, and on the 19th July 1829, Mr CHAPMAN of Yeovil attended, when the church was formed. In October, Mr Day was called to the pastorate, and he was ordained in April, 1830."

On the 26th April, 1832, the first stone of the present chapel was laid ; the corner stone was laid on the 30th of the same month, and the chapel was completed and opened for worship on June 20th, 1833. There were two rooms at the back which served for Sunday School until 1887, and for British Schools for several years between 1833 and 1840. Mr Day, in consequence of blindness and other infirmities, resigned in 1857, after 29 years service, 16 of them without any reward but in his work. He died on 10th March, 1858, aged 71 years.

Rev. James HANNAM, who for many years was minister of the Baptist Church, Bourton, Dorset, succeeded Mr Day here in February, 1858, and continued until his death on February 9th, 1872, aged 63 years. There are marble tablets to the memory of these worthies in the chapel they loved so well.

Rev. George CHARLESWORTH became pastor in September, 1872, and closed his ministry in August 1878.

Rev. George HIDER succeeded in March, 1879, and remained till June, 1886.

Rev. John BROWN followed in June, 1887. During his pastorate, very great changes were effected in the buildings ; the new school rooms in the front were erected at a cost of about 600 pounds, and the chapel renovated, which involved an outlay of about 400 pounds. He left in consequence of broken health, in 1900, to the regret, not only of the church where he laboured, but of the whole neighbourhood.

Rev. Joseph BEAUPRE' succeeded, commencing his pastorate on June 23rd, 1901. He is the present minister (1908). All the institutions of the Society were maintained by him and a staff of lay workers.

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