Saturday 23 November 2013 dawned as a cold winter’s day, but the atmosphere at the Two Centuries of Baptists in Guernsey exhibition was warm and welcoming.
More than 130 people passed through the doors of the Sunday school hall of Emmanuel Evangelical Baptist Chapel, Guernsey, in the Channel Islands, to see the exhibition, which coincided with the launch of a new book of the same name by church historian Dr Tim Grass.
Rev. Lloyd Ozanne, retired minister of the Guernsey Baptist circuit, of which Bethanie Baptist Chapel was the last to close, explained to the assembled visitors that he had long held a desire that the grace of God in planting and maintaining churches be recorded for posterity.
Following the closure of Bethanie in 2009, its trustees took up the vision and funded the project. Dr Grass gave a short overview of his involvement in the project and some interesting details which had emerged during his research.
The exhibition showed displays from each chapel, including those now closed. There were manuscripts, hymnals, minute books, photographs and artefacts from the chapels, local archives and private collections, documenting the history of the island’s Baptists, from its beginnings in 1812 to the present day.
The exhibition was not only of great interest to the Baptist community, but to other fellowships and those interested in island history. No such exhibition had been held before.
The Emmanuel chapel, which has changed little since it was built in 1904 and still retains many of its original features, was open to visitors. It was encouraging to see the level of interest generated, with some visitors coming both morning and afternoon and bringing others with them.
The hall was buzzing with conversations and reminiscences of the Lord’s hand on the work, in times past and present. Some visitors revealed that they had once attended a chapel, but no longer did so. It is our earnest prayer that the Lord will kindle in them the desire to return.
All attending were invited to sign a visitor’s book, and Mr Ozanne was asked to make the final entry, after which the book was presented to him as a gift.
To encourage visitors to stop and talk, the ladies of the various chapels provided a delicious array of refreshments. The whole event proved a good way of putting the island’s Baptists ‘on the map’, as it was publicised widely and well attended.