One of the four Bs for which Chesham is known is Baptist (along with beer, boots and brushes). Newtown Evangelical Baptist Church is one of a number of Chesham churches that believe and practice the baptism by full immersion of those who profess their belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Newtown was not part of the original title because the church first met in Townfield Yard, near Waterside, having separated from Lower Baptist Church (later Hinton and now Trinity Baptist Church) for doctrinal reasons. The Townfield High Calvinistic Baptist Chapel was opened in 1820 and a heritage plaque in Townfield Yard still shows the original site.
By 1851 the chapel had been renamed as Townfield Particular Baptist Church. ‘Particular’ referred to the conviction that Christ’s death successfully atoned for the sins of those particular people who would come to believe in him. The church also held to ‘Strict’ principles meaning that access to communion was limited to those who were baptised members of the church.
As Chesham grew to the north the church had a vision of moving to where the people were, and in the early 20th century plans were made to relocate to Berkhampstead Road. A Sunday School hall was built in 1914, and the church began to worship there in preparation for building the new church. Many people contributed to this venture and this is commemorated by their initials inscribed on the bricks.
However, along came the First World War, and consequently Newtown Baptist Church was not completed until 1927. The stone carrying the inscription ‘1820’ from Townfield was installed inside the new building (often confusing visitors over the age of the building). In addition a stone was set in the wall commemorating the church’s vision in moving to the north of the town.
‘Evangelical’ was added to the church’s name in 1970 to underline the commitment to the Bible being completely true, and to identify the church with the ‘evangel’; the good news of Jesus Christ.
In 1982 the need to modernise the premises was recognised. As a result the back hall and the main church building were linked by a block containing offices, a classroom and a storage area.
In various ways the church has continued to be outward looking. In the 1920s John and Kitty Dickinson went as missionaries to Mozambique, and then subsequently to Malawi; their time in Africa spanned three decades. In addition, their daughter Grace and son-in-law Ken were missionaries in Bolivia from 1961 to 1981.
More recently church members have worked on a medical mercy ship and in a West African hospital, as well as in support roles for two missionary organisations. In 2009 one of the church families moved to Nairobi, Kenya, to manage the supply of Christian books at heavily subsidised prices to the many Christian colleges in the area.
The church has a full programme of weekly youth clubs, ranging from toddlers through to teenagers. There is also a monthly luncheon meeting intended primarily for the retired in the town. A regular stall in Chesham market is also maintained as a way of keeping in contact with local people.
The church has always been independent of any denomination but is affiliated to the Association of Grace Baptist Churches (South East).