Records of a Baptist gathering in Bridport go back to 1707 when the Western Baptist Association acknowledge representatives from Bridport at one of their meetings in Taunton. It’s more than possible Christian believers of a Baptist understanding met collectively before this.
What happened to this group cannot be ascertained but we do know that it wasn’t until 1837 when a Mr Cleal (a postman from Bridport) attended a baptismal service at Chideock Chapel (in Chideock Village some two miles along the coast) he was so impressed by the preaching of the Gospel that he also asked to be baptised that night. Following this it is thought Mr Cleal approached the Western Baptist Association who then held a revival meeting in Bridport in 1837.
As the poster on the right shows a meeting was held on 17th April 1838 in the Chapel at Chideock when several candidates were baptised following a sermon on baptism. Later in the afternoon an address in the Town Hall Bridport followed on “the Nature Of A Gospel Church” at which time a Baptist Church was formed and shortly after the building of a Chapel was commenced which the bronze letters and numbers on the front of the building show clearly was completed in 1841.
The forming of the Church was ratified 27th October 1840 by a special covenant document call a “Trust Deed” which delineates the nature of the Church, its core doctrinal position and the details of ownership for the assets, principally the building. In an excerpt from this founding document we read:
“And upon further Trust from time to time to permit to officiate in the said Meeting House such person or persons as the Members of the said Church for the time being or the major part of them shall elect and appoint as the Minister or Ministers to statedly officiate and administer religious ordinances in the said Meeting House so that such Minister or Ministers be of the denomination of Particular Baptists and hold profess and embrace examine the doctrines commonly called Calvinistic namely Three equal persons in the Godhead, Eternal and Personal Election, Original Sin, Particular Redemption, Justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, Efficacious Grace in Regeneration, The moral law a rule of life and conduct for all believers, The final perseverance of true saints, The resurrection of the dead, The final judgment, The eternal happiness of the righteous and the endless misery of the impenitent , and hold the Congregational Order of the Churches inviolably.”
From this excerpt we see two key founding principles of the church which must be maintained by the Church members both in doctrine and the calling of a minister. First Chardsmead is a Reformed Baptist Church upholding a Calvinistic Theology and secondly the ministers called to pastor the Church must be such. Church rules were duly drawn up which detail requirements for membership of the congregation but these have been developed over time and a statement Of Faith added as challenges to Christian principles have arisen. This demonstrates the duty of the Church to maintain its biblical position has been carried out.
On 17th July 1996 a business meeting of the Church ratified an amendment to the Statement Of Faith making the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession Of Faith Chardsmead’ s abiding confessional standard as the confession which most fully describes and confirms the Church’s doctrinal position or its “Biblical Theology”.
Chardsmead was once, like many Baptist Churches in the Baptist Union but following the Swanwick Declaration of 1987 when the Baptist Union embraced fully the Ecumenical process many Baptist Churches found this unacceptable and seceded from that union. The reasons for this are fully explained in our section on “Godly Unity”. Chardsmead also withdrew and is now an Independent Baptist Church.
Truth is maintained also in Church life, we believe truth shouldn’t be idly kept as an end in itself but worked out, lived and practised among the congregation. In the spirit of James 2:20 “faith without works is dead” the members of Chardsmead meet regularly for services of worship twice each Lord’s Day and once midweek for Bible study, sometimes more and there are sundry fellowship opportunities throughout the year. Members also actively seek to share the Good News about Christ our Saviour at every opportunity as private individuals as well as in an organised door to door visitation programme with the “Please Explain Leaflets” and a regular public witness in the town square/marketplace handing out tracts and preaching in the open air. We are always looking for new opportunities to preach the Gospel and try where ever possible to support other like-minded churches.