How a Cotswold Baptist church that nearly died 30 years ago has burst back to life

Philip Deller, right, senior minister at Chipping Campden Baptist Church, with fellow minister Rev Edward Ibberson. Picture by Deborah Butler. www.deborah-butler.comA Cotswold church that was facing an uncertain future just a few decades ago, with just a few faithful members remaining, has witnessed a remarkable transformation driven by a hope of a Christian revival breaking out in the Cotswolds.

Chipping Campden Baptist Church (CCBC) has come a long way since the late 1970s when the 'congregation' at one service consisted of three elderly members sitting around a stove in the chilly back room praying for new people to come in to the church.

Steady but sustained growth over the past few decades has meant that CCBC has grown to overflowing three times and 'planted' two sister Baptist churches in Shipston-on-Stour and Bidford-on-Avon.
 
Nowadays, on a normal Sunday, the three 'Cornerstone' churches have a combined congregation of around 500 people, including scores of young children and teenagers.

Having twice 'given away' about 50 people when the two new churches were planted, the congregation at Chipping Campden quickly filled up again.

After reaching capacity at its church building Chipping Campden High Street, for the past few years Sunday morning services have been held in the hall of Chipping Campden School, the largest venue in town, which also has plenty of room for the various young people's groups.
 
Rev Philip Deller, who has been minister of CCBC since 1996, said he had felt a clear call from God to come to the Cotswolds from his previous church in Essex.
 
He said: "I came with a vision to see Chipping Campden Baptist Church grow, but not only grow but to begin to plant other congregations and not only to plant other congregations but to see a genuine Christian revival in the Cotswolds and beyond.
 
"One of the early encouragements I received came from one of the oldest members of the church at the time – one Alice Benfield.

"Alice had been attending the church all her life. She had lived through all the ups and downs and told me on one pastoral visit how at one service there were only three people at the service, including herself, and how the trio had gathered around the gas heater in the then back hall and just prayed for revival.

"Very early on in my time at CCBC we knew that to facilitate growth and to have a building that we could use for outreach, we would need to remove the old pews, the pipe organ and old-fashioned pulpit area.
 
"We were due to have a church meeting about these changes. Once again I decided to visit Alice to talk over the need for the changes.

Alice Benfield, who typified the attitude of elderly church members towards change.
 
"The door was always open and as I entered her house I heard Alice’s voice say: 'I know why you’ve come Philip. You want to take out the pews, organ and pulpit'.

"I was about to reply and give my most persuasive argument why these precious things had to be removed when Alice continued: 'It’s our fault. We prayed for revival but I never thought it would come with drums! We don’t really like the new music and songs but the young people do. We prayed for young people to come in and so we will not stand in the way. None of the oldies will oppose you. I’ll have a word with them'."

Rev Deller added: "Alice and I prayed together and as I left I thought to myself, with attitude like that, God can do anything in this church, and he has.

"Over the years since 1996, we have seen over 200 people baptised as believers, we have planted two churches on Shipston and Bidford and now 500-plus folk gather every Sunday morning across our three congregations.

"We are still praying for revival - for more, for hundreds and thousands to come to know Jesus Christ as their saviour and Lord across this area, across our nation."
 
One verse from the Bible that has been particularly special to Chipping Campden Baptist Church and the other Cornerstone churches in recent years can be found in the Second book of Chronicles, chapter 7, verse 14:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

© Loving The Cotswolds. 2017.