Baptists have been around in this country for a long time! Almost four hundred years ago a group of ordinary people led by Thomas Helwys fled from Britain to Amsterdam.
They were looking for the freedom to worship God and read the Bible for themselves without the persecution they experienced in Britain.
After a few years they returned to campaign for religious freedom, and formed the first Baptist church in England at Spitalfields. The church was separate from the Church of England, believing that their authority should be the Bible not a church hierarchy, and as a result these Christians were punished, fined, and often abused. It wasn’t easy to be a Baptist Christian!
The photo shows a baptism which took place at FBC. Rather than baptising babies, Baptists baptise those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ and have decided for themselves that they will follow him for the rest of their lives. We do this in a pool (called a baptistry) which is big enough to fully immerse a person, as a sign of a new start with Jesus.
It is because of our practice of baptising believers in this way that we are called Baptists – it is really only a nickname which stuck!
Baptists and other Christians were called ‘Non-Conformists’ because they believed in the authority of the Bible over and above the rules laid down by parliament in the Act of Uniformity (1539). This said that everyone had to worship in their local parish church and use the Book of Common Prayer. They refused to conform, and worshipped in what eventually became known as ‘Free’ churches, though at first they were also known as ‘Separatists’ because they were separate from the established church. Each church was governed by its own members, as they obeyed the teaching of Jesus in the Bible.
After the Act of Toleration in 1689 things very slowly began to improve for Baptists, but they were still prevented from holding office in public life and the army, and victimised in many other ways. It was not until the reign of Queen Victoria that these things really changed.
Today there are Baptist Christians and churches all over the world. Faversham Baptist Church has existed since 1867, and although we are independent we are linked with other churches in many ways. We are part of the South Eastern Baptist Association and the Baptist Union of Great Britain. We support BMS World Mission, belong to Churches Together in Faversham and Hope Faversham, and have informal links with Christians and churches in different parts of the world. Members of our church support a variety of organisations including the Evangelical Alliance, Tear Fund, Faversham Foodbank, Khushi Feet, Khushi Hands, and Canterbury Christian Schools Work Trust.