21st Century

WHITBOURNE CHAPEL: Its life in the 21st Century and its hope for the future.

Whitbourne Chapel has been in existence for over two hundred years. We are an independent Baptist Chapel, which means that we stand for the historic mainstream Christian faith, that we manage our own affairs, that we are totally self-supporting financially and give about 10% of our income to external charities. We do not have our own Minister, so we rely on lay preachers. We are voluntarily affiliated to the other Baptist Churches in the area for fellowship and mutual prayer support. We mainly differ from other mainstream Christian denominations in that we feel it is most Scriptural to baptise only adult Christians (hence our name). The present regular congregation consists of about 30 people: a happy group comprising about one third children, one third young couples and one third older people.
Architecturally the Chapel is not graceful, but it is very interesting. It is possible to see the changes and extensions over the years from its beginning as a small country cottage to its present day function. If the Chapel is not beautiful, its location certainly is. The surrounding fields give a sense of peace, there is a distant view of Cley Hill and we are often visited by deer and pheasants. We have quite a large resident colony of pipistrelle bats. We may have a countrywide claim to being the place of worship nearest to giraffes, camels and other exotic fauna too!
In the early days of nonconformity, Christians of our persuasion were usually baptised in a local river. Modern Baptist Churches have an indoor baptistery like a miniature swimming pool. Whitbourne Chapel is a halfway house. We have a large, cement-lined “pond” in our grounds which can be filled by a hose with cold water. A hot, sunny day is recommended! It was last used in 2012 for Baptisms. (Click here for photos)
Of course, a church is a fellowship of Christian people not merely a collection of buildings. The little graveyard adjoining the Chapel bears witness to stalwart Christians who maintained the Faith in this area and who are now with God: Enos Mines, Aaron and Len White, Graham Sweet, the founder: Richard Parsons, and many more – their lives and Christian testimony known to God.
Looking through the records of the past centuries it is interesting to see how the same sorts of questions have been asked and answered in the same sorts of ways: How to reach people with the Gospel? How to heat the Chapel? Who should maintain the organ? Should it be moved downstairs? Should the times of the services be changed? There have been disagreements – mostly amicably settled. There have been gifts: sixty years ago 32 rhododendron bushes which we still enjoy; more recently, hand-turned candlesticks from our own yew tree; an electric organ for the back room; a small oven and grill; new heaters. We thank God for the generosity of the donors and most particularly for the gifts of time and energy given by volunteer helpers who love the Chapel and what it stands for.
We survived the War, perhaps not surprisingly in this country area, although a 1940 note shows that there was great concern that the Chapel blackout was not effective. It seems harder to survive the Peace. Most people now fill their lives with everything except God. According to our Chapel records the last 50 years were marked by the coming of the power of electricity: 1950 – electric light installed by Len White; 1960 – electric blower for the organ (what a relief!); 1961 and updated 1997 – electric heating. Our prayer for the coming years is that there may be a rediscovery of spiritual power.

“So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13. 13

And almost the last words in the New Testament: “Surely I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22. 20