The History of God's Church here
1818 - 2020
202 Years, all of God's Grace
The Church was originally called Salem Strict Baptist Chapel and was formed in 1818 when a building was erected in Featherbed Lane, Two Waters, Hemel Hempstead. The Chapel was then registered for public worship on 15th August 1818 with Pastor William Foxwell as the first Pastor. It became known as Salem Strict Baptist Chapel and was associated with the Strict and Particular Baptist Churches belonging to the denomination called Particular Baptists.
Later on 10th February 1836, a mortgage was drawn up for Land, Chapel and Manse in the name of J. Waller. In 1850 a Trust was founded for the Chapel. Pastor William Foxwell served for 35 years until 1853, and Pastor Richard Searle became the next Pastor in 1854.
By 1851 Census figures show the Church attendance was an average of 140 people at each of the three Sunday Services. In addition, it had a full Sunday School of an average of thirty three children. The Church Officers in 1852 were: Pastor William Foxwell and Deacons: Mr Jas Tolley, Mr William Budd, Mr John Powling, Mr William Frances, Mr George Gristwood, Mr J Waller, and Mr William Ewer. Sixty six years later, the picture below was taken at the Church Centenary Services with special services on Wednesday August 28th, 1918. Mr J Booth of Bradford preached sermons in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Above Centenary Services August 28th 1918, Pastor and Deacons (Top left to right)
Mr Gilbert, Mr Reynolds, Mr Osbourn, Mr Batchelor, Mr Christmas (Sunday School Superintendent) Mr Hawkins, Mr Beasley, Mr Booth (Officiating Minister), Pastor Burrage (Pastor), Mr Pearce, Mr Creasley (Senior Deacon).
The picture below to the left is of Pastor J.P Gladstone who was the Pastor at Salem from 1931-1947. After the Second World War, during the 1950's, the Church saw very encouraging years, both spiritually and numerically, with 50-60 children attending Sunday School each Sunday. In June 1956, Mr Boxal was called to be the Pastor and he served as Pastor for 7 years to 1963.
Pastor John Saunderson ( picture above and right ) was connected to the Church for over 55 years. He was 12 years old when he began attending the Church in 1932. He attended with his parents and was saved by grace and baptised in 1939, the year the Second World War began. After serving in the military he returned home to the Church and was for many years a Sunday School teacher. In 1963 he was called to be Pastor.
The Picture to the right is of Pastor Saunderson in 1963 at his induction. Under his ministry the Church flourished. June 15th 1968 marked 150 years of the Church’s work and it's witness. However, Church attendance dropped over the 1980’s and Pastor Saunderson's ministry continued until his health no longer enabled him in 1987.
Over those 169 years the Church has always maintained a commitment to the best translation of the Word of God into the English language from the uncorrupted Greek Received Texts and Hebrew Masoretic Texts. The faithful Authorised Version of the Bible is based on these texts. God in His Word has indeed promised to preserve His Word. Therefore, the Church has always held to the Doctrine of Divine Preservation of Holy Scripture, as set forth in the Word of God and referenced in all the Historic Reformed Church Confessions of Faith. The Church also maintained the singing of the inspired Psalms and theologically sound Hymns sung in an atmosphere of godly fear and reverent worship.
After Pastor John Saunderson retired, a much younger man began to lead the work on 24th September 1988, but not as the pastor and remaining as a member of a nearby Church in Chesham. Under his direction the Bible Version changed from the Authorised Version, to the New King James and then to the New International Version.
Attendance by now had decreased to just a few people. In a campaign to increase numbers a few Christians were called upon from other Grace Baptist Churches to assist with the work, however despite these efforts numbers did not increase. The young man continued to lead Salem Baptist Chapel for a further two years until November 25th 1990 when the final service took place that morning, ending the 172 years of Salem Baptist Church's witness in the area. Sadly the Salem Chapel was sold for just £47,691 to a charismatic Church that still continue to meet in the Chapel.
Salem Strict Baptist Chapel, Featherbed Lane, Two Waters, Hemel Hempstead
After the sale of the Chapel, further trust funds were granted to the Church work from the recently closed Bethel Baptist Church, in St Albans. The combined capital of the two Churches were granted to a continuing relocated work, known as the “Belswains Evangelical Fellowship” just 3/4 mile away from the Chapel which it once used to meet in. Meetings moved to homes in Bennetts End, then Belswains Primary School and then to the Bennetts End Community Centre where we still meet today.
In June 1994 the Church formed as "Bennetts End Evangelical Baptist Church". On that occasion the afore mentioned gentleman, became the Church Pastor. However over the next four years membership decreased to just a few people and he laid down the pastorate in August 1998.
After his departure and at the Church's request, Mr Chalan Hetherington (above right) a very new and last remaining Deacon, agreed to lead the work until the Church called a Pastor. Over time the Bible Version was restored back to the Authorised Version and the Church also replaced the contemporary chorus and hymn books with Metrical Psalms and the formerly used "Gospel Hymns" hymn book. Later a weekly Open Air Gospel preaching in Hemel Hempstead Town centre was established and continues today. In January 2005 the Church became known as Bennetts End Reformed Baptist Church.
On January 20th 2009, the Church unanimously called Mr Hetherington to the Pastorate. In October 2013 the Church agreed to withdraw from the Association of Grace Baptist Churches.
We have not been able to replace the Chapel; and property values have escalated dramatically since it was sold in 1990. Nonetheless we are very thankful for the wonderful provision of Nash Mills Village Hall and above all for the way that the Lord has preserved the Church during some very difficult times. On Tuesday 13th October 2020 the Church Members gathered and voted to change the name of the Church to Bethel Reformed Baptist Church - Hemel Hempstead as we no longer meet in Bennetts End, albeit about 1 mile away in Nash Mills.
We are very encouraged that Mr Stephen Hare has taken up the Sunday School. We pray that the Lord will raise godly Deacons to assist Pastor Hetherington in the work.
This year marks 202 years of the Lord’s sustaining and upholding the Church in Hemel Hempstead. Through God’s mercy and gracious provision the Church continues to preach the Gospel of the Sovereign Grace of God as we worship and witness for Him. Through all the various trials, we continue to serve Almighty God who has declared "I will build My Church". Matthew 16:18.
Ephesians 3:20-21 "Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen"
Pastor Richard Searle
Pastor John Burrage