A short history of Chudleigh Baptist Church
Chudleigh has had a Baptist Congregation for over 160 years, originally worshipping in the ‘British School’ and from the 1880’s, just outside the town, in what is now known as “The Old Chapel”.
In the 1960s the congregation sold the chapel and moved to what was the old school to continue their witness there. However, by the mid ’70s the congregation was struggling to survive and so, in 1977, joined the newly formed umbrella church known as East Dartmoor Baptist Church. This comprised the Baptist congregations of Bovey Tracey, Lustleigh and Moretonhampstead. Being part of a larger church meant that a congregation could survive but also maintain a great deal of its own personality and uniqueness. For a good number of years the congregation stayed small but grew in confidence and in its own spiritual stature.
In the early ’80s an ambitious project was mooted to demolish the existing building, which was becoming unsafe, and build a block of flats with a chapel incorporated within. At this time the congregation was slowly growing and by the time the building work started in 1987 had grown to approximately 40, including a number of students from Seale Hayne College. During the construction period we continued to meet in the Town Hall with the anticipation that we would continue to grow.
Sometimes our plans and ambitions don’t always coincide with what God wants!
We moved back into the new chapel in the summer of 1989 with great hopes. BUT numbers decreased, rather than increased – Seale Hayne students moved away, 2 large families moved and so on. Had we made a big mistake and missed a God given opportunity? Only God knows the right answer. Yet God is gracious and allows us to make mistakes and in His timing brings things to fruition. On Sundays there were often only 12 – 15 present (on a good one maybe 20!).
In 1995 the congregation started to seek God’s way forward. We spent a lot of time in prayer, but didn’t limit this to just ourselves. We met with the Parish Church and restored what had been a fractured relationship, from way back. This was one of the key moments in our journey to where we are now. We met together, prayed together, made friendships and worked together, not to be activity led but to be led by the Holy Spirit. A united desire to see Jesus glorified in Chudleigh. At the end of 1999 we believed that we had to move out of the chapel into something God was calling us to or remain and die. 2000 was going to be the decisive year.
So during that summer we held 2 trial services in the Millennium Youth Centre to get a feel of what it would be like. The unanimous decision taken by the congregation was that this was indeed God’s will. No-one had any real idea of where it was going to take us, we only wanted to be obedient. So in September of that year we held our first regular service outside of the Chapel. We started with a congregation of 40 and continued to grow, reaching a point where it was necessary to look at another venue. At Easter 2002 we moved our service to the Community Hall where we continue to worship and where we can continue to grow both numerically and, more importantly, spiritually.
In 2009 we knew that God was calling us to an even bigger step of faith - to become, once again, a Baptist Church in our own right. Not only this, but to call a Pastor as well. So from 1st January 2010 we are Chudleigh Baptist Church and the Rev. David Hewitt is our Pastor.
In all of this we must acknowledge our gratitude to East Dartmoor Baptist Church for the support they have given to us over the years and particularly the encouragement during those key decision making times.
And above all else we must continue to give our thanks and worship to Almighty God who has sustained us and been with us through every part of our journey. The God who was worshipped 160 years ago by our forebears is unchanging and will continue to be so.