from humble beginings
Our own Baptist Church first met for worship on 3rd December 1972 at Don and Brenda Dutton's home at 21 Highfield Close. The Church was founded by four young couples all of whom had moved to Newport Pagnell, and one of these founding couples, Richard and Marylyn Beesley, remain as active members of our church.By the following May increased numbers led the church to move to the Health Authority's Orthopaedic Clinic, an old wooden hut next to the Youth Club in Wolverton Road. The worship was held in the largest room in the centre of the building, whilst the Sunday School met in rooms at the back. The congregation sat on well used metal and canvas chairs. Whilst the facilities were quite basic, the warmth of the fellowship endeared the premises to those who met there.The church had already generated a strong midweek programme of homegroups and children's activities, which had to be held at various locations around the town. At this stage the church had the highest ratio of children to adults in the Baptist Union Handbook! Eventually the Health Authority decided that the building was surplus to their requirements and put it up for sale in 1977. We were outbid and so we had to find somewhere else to worship very quickly.
The Parish Church owned Church House in the High Street, and we held our first service there on 12th June 1977, worshipping in a somewhat depressing room at the end of a dark corridor. The Sunday School met in the Coffee Shop, an adjacent room. Peter Faulkner, our organist and pianist, played an old harmonium that came from the Gospel Hall in Silver Street and there was also a piano. At first Church House lacked the intimacy of the wooden hut, but at least there was plenty of space and we had a regular base for worship. Richard Beesley, Church Secretary for many years, led the search for our own premises that started as soon as we heard that we had to move from the Old Wooden Hut. However, every avenue that was explored seemed to finish in a dead end. Where was the Lord leading us?
In March 1981 we were surprised to hear that the Parish Church had decided to sell Church House as it felt that they had too many buildings to support in the town. We didn't hesitate to submit an offer. Our bid was accepted but it wasn't until over 2 years later that the Charity Commissioners decided to agree the sale and we took ownership of the building - a further frustrating delay. During this period in seeking funds we were visited by a high level delegation of Baptists led by Rev Bernard Green and Dr John Biggs, General Secretary and President of the Baptist Union respectively. The purchase was marked by a well attended and enthusiastic prayer meeting at 7.30am on Friday, 1st July 1983.
As adequate funding had become available, extensive alterations were planned. Although these were primarily downstairs, they were fundamental to the fabric of the building and necessitated the closure of the building for all purposes. Fortunately the Parish Church again helped us and offered us free use of their facilities following their morning worship, and so on 5th February 1984 we met in this new temporary home. As there were relatively few of us in such a large sanctuary, we rattled around in the building! We moved back to Church House on 10th June with the opening of the building planned for the following Saturday, 16th June. Much preparation had gone into the opening, but it was touch and go whether we would be ready. The carpet was laid in the worship room downstairs on the morning but everything was finished on schedule and the opening took place on time in the afternoon. The opening was performed by Rev Ernest Grant, President of the Northants Baptist Association when the church was founded, and who had assisted in forming the church. It was also good to reunite the four founding couples for the day.
The church was well served with lay preachers until we had a minister. Several within our own fellowship led worship, notably Richard Beesley, Don Dutton and Ken Faulkner, Peter's father. Other preachers came from local Baptist churches, and Gordon Mead and Tom Gollins from the URC and Methodist churches were regular speakers.
With the Church having its own premises, we enjoyed steady growth. On 27th September 1986 Paul Rosier was inducted as the minister and the growth accelerated. We could squeeze up to about 180 people into the worship room at Church House and we soon filled up each week. Although we tried worshipping upstairs on occasions and a Sunday School class met in James Whysall's house across the road, it was apparent that the church had to address the issue. On 23rd September 1990 Paul Rosier led the first service at Portfields School when the church opened its second congregation in the town. A year later on 5th October 1991 John Layzell joined the church as the Student Pastor with special responsibility for the Portfields congregation. John and his wife Judith contributed greatly to the development of the church, and the fellowship were sad when they left in February 1995 when John was appointed as the minister of Winchmore Hill Baptist Church in Enfield. The last service at Portfields was on 24th September in the same year, after the church had decided to seek a new, larger base in the town.
The following week we met for our first service at Lovat Hall. When the Borough decided to sell the building, we decided to bid for it as it had quickly become apparent that the larger premises would meet our needs for both Sunday worship and the burgeoning programme of midweek activities. However, the church has never found that it had an easy ride in purchasing new premises and this last purchase proved to be no exception. After considerable public consultation which included a survey conducted in the town, we finally completed the purchase on 27th March. A few days earlier on 23rd March we held our last service in Church House. The sale of Church House was delayed but was finally completed in Summer 1997. The building has now been converted into apartments.
Meanwhile two phases of improvements had been planned to Lovat Hall, the first of which were completed just prior to our formal opening of the premises on 20th September. This was performed by Rev Roy Freestone, Superintendent of the Central Area of the Baptist Union and one of our church members. The improvements included converting the bar area into the chapel, creating two offices from a small meeting room, refurbishment of the kitchen and better use of space in the building. Further improvements to the building were made in 2000 and 2001.
In February 2011, after nearly 25 years of fruitful ministry, our first Minister, Paul Rosier, retired. There then followed a two year period during which NPBC sought God's will for its future leadership and in February 2013 appointed Rev. Jack Walker as its new minister.
NPBC has continued to see growth and in 2014 appointed Rev Sarah Harrison as an Associate Minister and Dan Parkes as a Student Minister. Sarah divides her time between leading at NPBC as well as working as a Chaplain at the Oakhill Secure Training Centre in Milton Keynes. Dan also divides his time, this time between working with the ministry team at NPBC and studying at Regents Park College, Oxford.
The First Baptist Church in Newport Pagnell
There has been a Baptist congregation in Newport Pagnell since the 1660s when a group of Dissenters, with the encouragement of John Gibbs, the Rector of Newport Pagnell, began worship in cottages in the town and were re-baptised by immersion. Gibbs was ejected from his living as Rector and guided the Dissenting congregations in the area for some years afterwards.
The first mention of the formation of the Baptist Church comes in 1707 when Mr. Robert Hanwell became its pastor. In 1716 Robert Hanwell, John Palmer, John Robinson, Bartholomew Course, Samuel Porter and Matthew Adams purchased premises in the name of the Baptist congregation to pray, read and hear Divine Service. David Evans succeeded Robert Hanwell as pastor in 1748. Other pastors named in these years were William Coles, Mr. Hewson, George Foskett, William Early, Robert Abbott and Joseph Wilkins.
Christmas Day 1829 was a memorable day. The church held a "day of fast, humiliation and prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit". It was recorded that the "attendance was numerous", that a "deep solemnity pervaded the meeting" and that "the prayers of the brethren were fervent". From that time on the cause revived, membership rising to 30 by 1831.
In 1861 a schoolroom was added to the front of the chapel and by 1870 membership had reached 48 with some 100 children in the Sunday School. The pastor left after some disagreements in 1875 and the final pastor moved on in 1892.
After the First World War the church so declined that eventually services ceased and at the request of the surviving trustees the premises were taken over by the Baptist Union Corporation. The monuments were removed, the remains interred in the town's new cemetery and in 1929 the chapel was sold by auction, and was finally demolished during the 1950s. However, a section of its wall still stands as part of the garden wall of the Vicarage in Market Square and can clearly be seen from the High Street.