Eynsford Christian Fellowship (Baptist)
The History of the Eynsford Christian Fellowship
This history, is a living history about a people of God, who have sought to maintain a witness in Eynsford and surrounding area, to the Good News proclaimed by Jesus, and by their care and sacrificial giving to maintain a Minister of the Gospel within the community, to encourage them, and share with them in this task. Within this fellowship of people, Eynsford has seen a Church faithful to the Scriptures for over 234 years. A very warm welcome will be extended to all who wish to worship with us. Also those who wish to identify with us, but cannot join us in worship, may do so, by supporting our witness, most importantly, by prayer, and if the Lord directs, by assisting in the maintainance of a Minister within this community.
Baptists in England initially developed along two different lines. The General Baptists (the first Baptists in England dating from 1611) were so-called because they held to the view of the General Atonement. That is that Christ by his death made possible the salvation of all who would believe. This position is known as Arminianism. In contrast, the Particular Baptists (dating from 1638) were so-called because they held the Particular Atonement, which is the view that Christ by his death saved the chosen (or the particular) known as the elect. This position is known as Calvinism. The Church at Eynsford began as a Particular Baptist Church, and whilst the pioneers of this Church and many other Baptist Churches were Calvanists, their missionary zeal for Christ led to many people becoming part of the Worshipping Christian community, and gave them a real joy in knowing God in their lives. There is a further designation of 'Strict' - this was to denote a Church which restricted Communion to those who had gone through believers Baptism and were members of the Church. Whilst Eynsford Church is generally described as a 'Paticular' Church, one Baptist publication of 1844 notes it as a 'Strict' Church - thus it was a "Strict and Particular" Baptist Church.
A Short History of The Eynsford Baptist Church
As written in 1906
Covering the History of the original purpose-built building.
Unabridged and as originally published.
THE first entry in an old Church-book, reads thus :-
"The Particular Baptist Church of Jesus Christ, late of Wilmington, in the County of Kent, now meeting at Eynesford, in the same County."
The date is June 10, 1792. Mr. M. Rogers, youngest son of Rev. John Rogers, tells how that in 1775, a Mr. J. Morris removed from London Wilmington, and opened his house for the preaching of the Gospel. How a Church consisting of five members was then formed. We are looking back one hundred and thirty-one years [back in 1906]. Those were the times of stress and persecution, for all who ventured to obey the dictates of conscience and worship God other than in the Established Church. As late as 1792, Macaulay, in his history of England, records that a royal proclamation was issued, forbidding "irregular meetings and the circulation of seditious literature, especially such as was calculated to undermine religious belief, as well as the loyalty of the less instructed portion of the nation." Free, outspoken loyalty to our Lord Jesus Christ is still obnoxious to Cæsar !
The little community at Wilmington increased in numbers, and among those attracted was a working man named "Hodges," who lived at Eynsford, and he induced Mr. Morris, and a Mr. J. Stanger, of Bessels Green, to hold services in his cottage on alternate Sundays and once a month on Thursdays.
Brave Hodges ! in those days to risk so much-a true hero whose love for Christ led to the formation of the Church here. For three years very little success attended their efforts. Still, some six or seven were immersed upon confession of their faith in Jesus Christ, in the river Darenth flowing by the cottage of brave Hodges.
This seems to have aroused attention, and a breath of revival followed, for several were added to their number, among them, Mr. Floyd, of the Paper Mills.
Meetings increased and the Divine awakening then enjoyed, alarmed the Church folk. If these "meetingers" were allowed to continue they would draw all the people away, and the clergyman would only have pews to to preach to ! Such words, alas ! encouraged the villagers of the lower class, and the little Church had to pass through some rough times. Music ! from tin kettles, bells, horns, and whatever their ingenuity could devise, attended the worshippers and disturbed their worship. Their intention was declared to be "to drive these enemies of Church and King from the village of Eynsford, and stones often came battering at the door of the cottage in which they met."
However, the little Church persevered, and strange scenes were enacted in this beautiful village. One amusing incident is recorded. A crowd of men and boys followed the preacher shouting " Tally-ho " and otherwise annoying him, which so aroused the sympathies of an outsider, Sir John Dyke's steward, who saw it, that with a heavy riding whip, he rushed to the help of the persecuted Minister and his " tallying " was so effectual that he quickly dispersed the " hounds." Bearing with gentleness these insults only seemed to cause their increase and at last the ringleaders were punished by the magistrates.
How wondrously God works. The report of the little Church's endurance was circulated more widely by these proceedings, and many came to hear these "strange doctrines" and found to their surprise the "meetingers" were loyal subjects who even prayed for the King and the Royal family!
Yet what follows in the record reveals the bitterness that dwelt in some hearts. Hodges-brave, earnest, Hodges-had notice to leave his cottage unless the preaching there was discontinued. Another house was offered, and a stable was fitted up, in Priory Lane at a cost of £100 and was opened July 2, 1799.
Sorrow, indignation and joy, struggle in the heart as one tries to think through this period of the Church's history. Sorrow that any people of God should have been subjected to such trial. Indignation that any one Church should attempt to arrogate to itself the right to interfere with the conscience of any ' man. Joy that the brave step of Hodges issued in so complete a success.
The records in the Church-books are of little public interest until we read of-the settlement on September 29, 1802, of the Rev. John Rogers upon whose ministry the Divine blessing rested, for in 1804, we find a minute that "a new place of worship is needful," and on July 2, 1806, our new Meeting house was opened,
Dr. Rippon preaching from Zech. iv. 6. January 3, 1808. "Resolved that a Sunday School be commenced." In May 13 of the same year, it was found necessary to erect a gallery in Eynsford Chapel..
May 1, 1814, the record tells the tale of continued success under the ministry of Rev. J. Rogers. "In consequence of the increase of the congregation, and the smallness of our vestry for the friends who dine there, an enlargement is necessary."
Incidentally we read that when Mr. Rogers came to be Pastor "great difficulty was experienced in obtaining lodgings for the young Minister, that at one time the prejudice against a Baptist Minister was so strong that the people with whom he lodged had notice to quit their house unless he left, and it was with the greatest difficulty he secured a house when he married."
We need not follow the constant record of God's blessing upon Mr. Rogers'
ministry and give our last extract of this time.
September 20, 1840.- "Our esteemed and valued Pastor entered into rest this day. His end was peace."
September 29, 1840.- "Our beloved Pastor was interred in a vault made in the old Baptistry (by his desire), and was followed by 300 persons who attended to testify the affectionate respect they cherished for the memory of their friend and Pastor. So is 'the memory of the righteous blessed.' "
It was the Rev. J. Rogers' great joy to know that all his nine children learned to love and serve their father's God and became useful, not only in Eynsford, but in other spheres also. Even to this day he is represented at Eynsford by a grandson who is a member and deacon of the Church to which he ministered so ably and so long. "Unto you, and your children, and your children's children," stands the promise.
After the decease of Mr. Rogers several Ministers fulfilled the pastoral duties, and in 1852, a man of considerable distinction, the Rev. Jonathan Whittemore, the originator of the Christian World, the Sunday School Times, and other publications, took charge of the Church. Mr. Whittemore came to Eynsford from Rushden in Northamptonshire. Already the Baptist Messenger one of his first adventures, had a large circulation among the members of our denomination, and he was well known for his interest in Congregational singing, having also published The Comprehensive Tune Book. As he had thus secured for himself a place in religious literature he might have looked for a larger sphere of ministerial labour, but the fields and lanes of quiet Eynsford, and their nearness to London, attracted him. It was on Good Friday, 1857, that the first number of the Christian World was published. Two years later the Sunday School Times appeared This was the first paper devoted to the interests of the Sunday School ever published, and in a few weeks its circulation had reached 26,000 copies weekly. Connected with Mr.Whittemore in these undertakings was the late Mr. James Clarke, founder of the firm of James Clarke & Co.
The Church enjoyed many advantages through the connection of its Pastor with the great world of thought in London and elsewhere, not the least of which was the willingness of the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, then in the youthtide of his career, to come down and preach, rather frequently in the Chapel or the adjacent orchard. Mr. Whittemore remained the Pastor until his death on October, 31, 1860, and was buried in Abney Park Cemetery in the presence of a notable company of mourners.
From this church, too, came Miss "Marianne Farningham," so well known in the world of literature. She was the eldest daughter of Mr. Joseph Hearn of Farningham, a deacon of Eynsford Church for many years. Miss Hearn was a scholar and teacher in the Sunday School, and was baptised into communion about the year 1849, during the pastorate of the Rev. William Reynolds. She has always been on the staff of the Christian World, and also for many years the Editor of the Sunday School Times. Miss Hearn took the name of "Farningham" from her birthplace on the advice of Mr. Whittemore.
Of the later years of this old Church, little need be said. Faithful men served it, and the changes through which it has passed are many and varied. It is of interest to note that Rev. E. G. Gange, so well known in our denomination, in his early days, served Eynsford well for some time as Student-Pastor. Also Rev. E. Roberts, now of the South London Tabernacle, preached his first sermon while living at Eynsford. At the present time the Church is fortunate in having as its Pastor, Rev. H. E. Stone, late of Abbey Road, St. John's Wood. Since his coming in June, 1905, the Congregations have much more than doubled, and through his faithful ministry, many souls are being added to the Church. May our God still be gracious unto us.
Eynsford Baptist Church which owes its formation to that brave working man, Hodges, has been an active and progressive Church, for from it the Baptist Churches at Meopham, Sutton, Foot's Cray, Kingsdown, Crockenhill, Shoreham, Stansted and Farnborough had their origin.
The old building is no longer sound, time has told its tale, and soon it must give place to a new and improved Chapel. One would like to "let it stand," but the price and scarcity of available land render it impossible to build, except on the old site ; and, after all, is not that as it should be? On this site the greatest victories were achieved by the Church-around it are the graves of those who helped in the bye-gone years to resist the tyranny of prelacy, and who suffered for conscience sake. Fitting, surely, that upon that same spot, surrounded by those memorials of its heroic members, a new "House of God" shall be erected and opened in the year that marks the voice of the nation, loudly and clearly raised for "civil and religious liberty" .
Who that reads this short outline of the little Church that for 131 years has stood for the Gospel of the Grace of God, and freedom to worship Him according to the dictates of an enlightened conscience, but will breathe a prayer for God's blessing still to rest upon it in all its future years ?
The original history booklet ends here.
History of the Church Chapter 1-2: 1775-1905
History of the Church Chapter 2: 1905-1906
History of the Church Chapter 3: 1905-1938
History of the Church Chapter 4: 1938-1940
History of the Church Chapter 5: 1940-1950
History of the Church Chapter 6: 1950-1960
History of the Church Chapter 7: 1960-1969
History of the Church Chapter 8: 1969-1980
History of the Church Chapter 9: 1981-1989
History of the Church Chapter 10: 1990-1999
History of the Church Chapter 11: 2000-2009
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