The Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, has given us a long history. Behind these facts is the spiritual pilgrimage of hundreds of humble believers. There’s a story written in heaven of souls redeemed, the binding up of broken hearts, the recovery of lost sons and daughters, and a thousand other works of the Spirit of God. It’s our business to serve the Lord faithfully in our generation as our fathers did in theirs. It’s our privilege to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ and through earnest prayer and service to wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
A Brief History of the Church
Grace Church Guildford (which until January 2018 was known as Chertsey Street Baptist Church) has a long, continuous history of people believing the Bible’s teaching about God’s grace and organising church life according to baptist principles.
There is no exact date known for the first baptist congregation in Guildford, or for the founding of this church, but first allusion to a non-conformist group appears in a land deed from the 1590s. The first pastorate of the church is dated 1645, but our beginnings probably go back quite a time before that. We know that by 1669 there were some 60 to 100 people with baptist convictions meeting regularly in Guildford. Less than 20 years later a barn was converted into a meeting house and called the “Charcoal Barn Chapel” because it was on the site of the town’s charcoal store.
The simple statement of these facts ought not to conceal that the church began in days when those who held to baptist principles were severely persecuted. For example, it was during this century that John Bunyan, the baptist writer of The Pilgrim’s Progress spent years in Bedford jail for his faith. The church in Guildford was founded and grew in the face of fierce opposition.
The Charcoal Barn Chapel was situated in what is now the Tunsgate, just off Guildford’s cobbled High Street. It was reconstructed and became the centre of the worship and witness of the church until 1953, when the town council developed the site and the church moved its meeting place to our present building in Chertsey Street (formerly a Methodist Chapel).
The story of the intervening years varies from times of great experience of the Lord’s blessing to a period when the spiritual state was so bad that there was nothing more than a regular Sunday morning service. Only by the Lord’s grace can we speak of a continuing church.
The first half of the 20th century was marked by 38 years of ministry by Pastor John Peters who cared for the church through the difficult years of the two World Wars. In addition to a countrywide ministry, Mr. Peters also served on the council of a number of national Christian organizations.
John Peters was pastor until 1951, and was followed in 1955 by L. S. Hill, who was pastor until 1962. In 1966 Clifford Pond joined as Pastor and created a plural eldership to lead the church. He served until 1979 when he left to work with Grace Baptist Mission.
In 1980 John Benton joined the church and became a full time teaching elder, during his ministry the church grew and flourished. In 2016, after 37 years of ministry at Chertsey Street and then Grace Church Guildford, he was called to Pastoral Support ministry with London Seminary and Pastors’ Academy.
In 2008 David Skull had joined the church as a Pastor in Training and in 2009 joined the eldership and became an Assistant Pastor and later co-Pastor. In 2018 David was joined in the ministry by Jamie Southcombe who came as a Pastor in Training, and in 2019 Jamie also joined the eldership team.
This is an extract from the church records which demonstrates the sincerity and godly concerns of those who served God in this church before us.