Friday, March 02, 2007

Preaching this coming Lord's Day.

This Lord's Day, God willing, I shall be preaching at Bethel Chapel, the Bars, Guildford. The Church meeting at Bethel is a Strict and Particular Baptist cause, founded in 1879 on Easter Monday (which was April 14th that year). The following year they opened their first chapel, a 'tin tabernacle' type building in Martyr Road. From its beginnings the church at Bethel has been a member of the 'Gospel Standard' Association of Strict and Particular Baptist Churches.
The first 'Bethel', the old iron chapel in Martyr Road, was sold in June 1910, when the present chapel was opened. J.K. Popham of Brighton and Mr. Calcott of Coventry preached at the opening services.

The first pastor at Bethel was Mr. Jabez Wiltshire, who was called to the pastorate in 1925. Four men had been invited to the pastorate in the late 19th century, but they had all declined. Mr. Wiltshire remained in the pastorate at Guildford until his death in 1953 at the age of sixty-one. We have met a man, then a youth but since grown old in the service of God, who remembers hearing Mr. Wiltshire and getting great good under his ministry.
Jabez Wiltshire was born in Studley, in the county of Wiltshire, into a godly home. In the mercy of God he was called by grace at an early age and baptized in 1914. He began to preach in 1917. An afflicted servant of God, both in his body and his mind, and he was enabled by his suffering to minister to others who suffered. There is a little monument to his memory in Bethel Chapel.
The Church at Bethel are blessed with a splendid building, not only a comfortable sanctuary but also rooms at the back. Its location, close to the centre of Guildford yet tucked away in a side street, is both an advatage and a disadvantage. The advantage is that there is not traffic thundering past the building, and that since the street is quiet and residential, it does not suffer as Wellingborough Tabernacle does from stone-throwing vandals. The disadvantage is that it is not easily noticed.
Bethel has two of the best deacons I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I look forward to each visit there.
Pray for the Church there. They are small in number, yet Guildford is a large place, and the occasional student from the University comes to the chapel. Perhaps its proximity to Chertsey Street Baptist Church, pastored by John Benton, is also a disadvantage. But in this point at least Bethel can say 'we were here first'. Although Chertsey Street is the older Church, they met elsewhere in the town until the 1950s when their old church was demolished and they moved to an old Methodist chapel in Chertsey Street.

But Guildford is big enough to support more than one reformed Baptist Church, after all.

Services are at 11 am and 6 pm, but don't quote me on the morning service. I turn up for the 10am prayer-meeting.



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