History of the Old Baptist Chapel
For a number of years many members had been unhappy about the church's adherence to the Gospel Standard Articles of Faith. After a great deal of discussion almost all the members signed a statement in the Church Book signifying their agreement with the covenant of 1842. In May 1969 the church passed a resolution stating,
That we as a Church meeting for the worship of God at the Old Baptist Chapel, Bradford on Avon, Wilts desire in the fear of the Lord to abide by the Articles of Faith and Rules of the original Covenant of this Church.
This resolution was sent with an explanatory letter to the Gospel Standard Committee and the membership of that group was ended.
A number of church members had gained considerable benefit from the Corsham Central Bible Study, a series of weekly preaching meetings held through the winter months every year. The annual visit of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was eagerly awaited every year. These meetings convinced many of the Bradford members of the importance of an expository ministry.
At the same time it was felt to be Scriptural to set up a leadership of elders in the church and brethren H. G. Alsop, Leonard Hope and Terry Ladd were appointed ruling elders and John Alsop and Robert Oliver teaching elders.
The joint preaching ministry began in January 1971. Also in 1971 brethren David Alsop and Philip Collier were appointed deacons. Mr. H. G. Alsop was called home in 1984 but each of the other brethren remains in office. In addition brother Clive Richards was appointed a ruling elder in 1982 and in the same year brother Andrew Nicholls a deacon.
By 1976 the church was strong enough to support Robert Oliver as a full-time minister and John Alsop a year or so later. The death of Mr. H. G. Alsop had been preceded by that of his wife two years earlier. Under God their devoted service had made the continuance of the work possible. From the mid thirties until his death Mr. Alsop had been church secretary and for much of that period treasurer as well. For many years he was Sunday School superintendent and had often been called upon to take services when there was no minister although he himself never preached.
Mrs. Alsop was organist, for many years a Sunday School teacher and regularly entertained visiting preachers. Their example remains a treasured memory to all who knew them.
As the three hundredth anniversary of the work approached it was decided to redecorate the interior of the chapel. With increasing congregations it was also thought wise to enlarge the vestibule and so to make it easier to deal with greater numbers entering or leaving the building. This has been done by removing two rows of pews across the chapel. At the same time it was decided to renew the remaining gallery stairs and to replace the set removed in 1958. Most of the work of alteration has been carried out by members of the church and congregation in their own time. We are thankful to have such a team of people with skills in carpentry, plumbing and electrical work as well as those ready to help in other ways.
The work at the chapel continues to be centred upon the preaching and teaching of the Bible as the inspired and infallible word of God as relevant for men today as it was when the church was established in 1689.
The two pastors usually take one Sunday service each and the preaching has usually been consecutive and expository. In recent years Robert Oliver has had responsibility for the adult Bible class on Sunday afternoons. Regular house to house evangelism has taken place under the leadership of John Alsop. Emphasis has been laid on the weekly prayer meetings in recognition that all spiritual progress is completely dependent upon the blessing of God. No local church can live its life in isolation from the wider work of God.
The members of the Old Baptist Church are grateful to all those ministers who have so readily come from other churches to preach to them over the years. There are very warm memories of the three Sunday visits of the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in the 1970s but there are so many othe rs who have been the means of much blessing.
From the church at Bradford men have gone to serve other churches in recent years. In 1981 Henry Jarvis was called to the pastorate of Zion Chapel Calne and in 1985 Simon Ladd was called to Brockley Baptist Church Suffolk after training at the London Theological Seminary.
In recent years there have been visitors from all five continents at the services at the chapel and it has been a great encouragement to promote international links. Recently a special bond has been forged between the Old Baptist Chapel and the Reformed Baptist churches of Malaysia and Singapore. In 1987 and 1988 Robert and Rachel Oliver were able to visit these states as Robert undertook a programme of preaching and lecturing. In return we have been delighted to welcome a number of Malaysians and Singaporeans to Bradford on Avon.
The members of the Old Baptist Church have welcomed the approach of their tercentenary with a sense of gratitude. In spite of the difficult times the work has been sustained. There have been great changes but the Church continues to declare its allegiance to the God who has revealed himself in his Son Jesus Christ and has revealed his will in the Bible.
We are thankful for the great system of Christian doctrine expressed in the 1689 Confession of Faith the anniversary of which is also being celebrated this year and which contains the system of truth still taught by this church. However as we face the needs of our society we pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival power. Such visitation alone can meet the plight of our nation today.
Our confidence is in the God who changes not and 'is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think'.