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History

List of Ministers including Lay Pastors at Melbourn Baptist Church (click to enlarge)

Zion Baptist Church in Mortlock Street, Melbourn is probably the oldest Baptist Church in Cambridgeshire.

Dated officially from 1675 when its first minister - Benjamin Metcalfe - was appointed, there are also records of Baptist 'Dissenters' gathering in 1653, when a letter addressed to them was received during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell.

'Dissenters' refers to various Christian Protestant denominations that became subject to periodic persecution for refusing to take the Anglican communion or to conform to the principles of the restored Church of England in the 1600s. Consequently, several persons from Melbourn, including Benjamin's widowed mother, were imprisoned by the Cambridge Assize Court in 1665.

(John Bunyan visited the village around this time, but was reported for preaching without a licence, and was committed to prison. It was in prison that he started to write Pilgrim's Progress.)

After the 'King's Indulgence' in 1672, Benjamin obtained a licence to preach in his own house. Yet further opposition followed, but the church re-gathered in 1675 and there has been a Baptist Church in Melbourn continuously since that time.

The places of their early meetings are uncertain, although for a period from 1689 they met in the farmhouse of William Metcalfe which had to be licensed for that purpose.

In 1745, a church was built in the High Street, opposite the 'White Cottages'. (This was demolished in 1937.) However, in 1856, land was bought from John Mortlock and the present church building - and, later, the church manse - was constructed, opening on 21 October 1856.

[Baptists believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross at Calvary - on Good Friday - but that he rose again from the dead - on the third day, Easter Day - and has made the way possible for salvation for any who will repent of their sins, place their faith in him, and accept him as Lord and Saviour. Baptists accept the authority of the Bible - the word of God - in all things and believe it teaches that baptism, commanded by Jesus, should be the total immersion of a believer in water.]

On 27 October 1856, eight people were baptized in the new premises, which thereafter hosted annual visits of the 19th century's most charismatic Baptist preacher, Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and it is notable that records show more than 100 people were baptized between 1858 and 1861.

The church has always reached out to the elderly and the young. In 1851, there were 116 youngsters in the Sunday school; in 1975 more than that number were attached to the church, which continues its work particularly among the young and their families.

Members have moved from the church to become ministers and missionaries, in this country or overseas, and the church has links with mission work in different parts of the world.

The names are known of all the ministers who have led the church since 1675, with the Rev. Stuart Clarke being the 36th minister following his induction in September 2006. A plaque listing all of the ministers and lay pastors was prepared for the 150th Anniversary Celebration for the current church building in 2006 and now hangs in the church.