Amersham has long had a link to Reformed religion, as witnessed by the Martyrs Memorial in the field behind Station Road, where three Lollards were burnt at the stake for their beliefs in the early 1500s. Baptist Christians have been traced in Amersham from as early as 1626. However, the founding of the congregation that now meets at Raans Road began with the arrival in Amersham of a man named Richard Morris.
An ex-army man, Morris was ordained as a Baptist minister in June 1776 and began preaching in his home and then from his workshop. In 1784 a new Chapel was opened on a site close to this workshop. The Old Town Chapel building is Georgian and built of beautiful red brick. It is believed to be the only circular non-conformist church building of its period in the country. It cost £256 and was paid for in full by the opening day. Over the following years a number of extensions were built and a baptistry added in 1811. In 1842 two school rooms were added and a school established by the British School’s Committee.
Richard Morris died in 1817 and following his death there was some division in the church. Unity was restored by 1828 and the church then continued as a trust with various ups and downs until, in 1942, it was agreed to transfer the church deeds to the Baptist Union Corporation.
In 1969, at around the time that the Beatles recorded ‘The Long and Winding Road’, the Pastor – the Rev Eric Chambers – felt the Lord declare that the Church should be ‘like a beacon on the hill’, shining its light – the Good News of the saving grace of Jesus – to be visible and heard over Amersham and the surrounding areas. It would prove to be a ‘long and winding’ 42 years before this prophecy was fulfilled with the opening of the new King’s Church building in Raans Road. In the intervening years the church was led by a number of different pastors and made use of a variety of local buildings to house the growing congregation and its activities, including the old Brethren Meeting house in Chiltern Avenue and Dr Challoners Boys School. Further words of prophecy reinforced the challenge to the church to move from the Old Town and a more serious search for a viable site began during the 1980s.
Many possible sites and options were explored but objections, practical difficulties and the presence of wealthier property purchasers meant that none of them were suitable. In 1996 a new limited liability company Trust was set up to replace the previous Amersham Old Town Christian (Baptist) Fellowship Trust and, over the next 10 years, explored a number of possible projects with Chiltern District Council, but as before, all came to nothing.
Then, in May 2006, we learned that Cala Homes had agreed a deal with the County Council to build a housing development on the vacant Raans Road site. In July 2006 a team from King’s met with Cala to open discussions about the possibility of including a new church building on the site. Plans were drawn up and in November it was confirmed that we would be part of the scheme. In 2007, a team to manage the project was put together and, due to generous giving by church members and the amazing agreement by Cala to transfer the land to us for only £1, we had the funds to get started!
Progress was, however, still not straightforward. Securing planning permission, negotiating the transfer of ownership of the Old Town site from the Baptist Union to King’s, raising the necessary finance to complete the project and agreeing contractors to build it took from 2007 until 2012. Work finally started on 15th October 2012 and we moved in on 6th November 2013 to begin the next stage in our history.
The road to our new home may have been long and winding, but at every turn we could see God’s provision in our endeavours and we are delighted with our new home and the opportunities it affords us to build relationships with, bless and serve those in the communities around us.