Our History - right up to today!
Officially, the Church was established in a small ‘tin chapel’ in Whitecross Road in June 1900, but there had been a fellowship worshipping there for at least seven years before that date. It started under the name of the ‘Whitecross Fellowship’ and was renamed ‘Clarence Park Baptist Church’ when they called a minister in 1896. All seemed to be going well until in 1899 the minister left and in the November the leader/ trustee approached the minister of the Wadham Street Baptist Church, saying “The work can no longer be supported. Will you take it over?” (The Wadham Street Church was closed in 1985 and the building is now the Blakehay, a theatre, which has recently been acquired by Weston-super-Mare Town Council).
The minister of Wadham Street quickly got a group of people together and they agreed to buy the tin chapel and take over the running of the Church, operating as a separate Church retaining the name ‘Clarence Park Baptist Church’. This took effect in January 1900 and the official re-opening took place in June of that year when there were 40 members. Soon after, Clarence Park became part of the Bristol Association and the Baptist Union in London
A new building
The new Church flourished under the first two Pastors, Rev R Venting and Rev J W Padfield, and in 1904 it became clear that the tin chapel would soon be too small, and a plot of land was purchased in Walliscote Road about 150 yards away, but the finances did not permit building work to start until 1908, when the tin chapel was sold and for six months the Church worshipped in the Town Hall, until the new building was habitable. This building was dual purpose, serving as Church on Sunday mornings and evenings, and a Sunday school on Sunday afternoons. Right from the start the Sunday school flourished and was a major part of the work of the Church. This first stage of the building was placed at the back of the site, leaving space for a church to be added later. Meantime the space was grassed over.
The next Pastor was Rev Sheriff Johnson who took up his duties as the new church was opened in December 1908, and again the work flourished. However an event in 1912 shed gloom over the Church when the much loved Sunday school superintendent, Mr Louch, went with his wife on holiday to America, on the ill-fated Titanic. His wife was saved but he was lost.
During the First World War a room at the church was often opened during the day so that soldiers billeted in the town could come in for rest and relaxation, and someone was always there to make tea or write letters for those who couldn’t write, but otherwise the normal church activities went on uninterrupted, although of course some of the young men went to France and lost their lives in the trenches.
A proper Church Sanctuary
By 1919 the debt incurred by the building work had finally been paid off and a new minister Rev H G Drake took on the responsibility of raising more money to build the main church. When the next minister Rev C H Thompson was appointed there was still much to be done but he set about the work with enthusiasm and by 1930 the building work was started and the main Church was opened in July of that year. The original dual purpose building then became the current Church hall.
1930 Main Church
When Rev Thompson came, he was asked if Clarence Park would take over sole responsibility for a small church at Milton, which had been started four years earlier as a combined effort by three Baptist Churches, and so he came expecting to be minister of one church and found he had two! Milton became independent in 1949 and is numerically now considerably larger than Clarence Park.
During the Second World War Clarence Park was hit by incendiary bombs and slightly damaged, but more seriously, several members were killed when their homes were destroyed. The building was requisitioned for storing furniture from homes and was occasionally used as a post office. Rev Thompson left after a ministry of 25 years.
Under his successor, Rev V J Smith who came in 1952 membership rose to 364, and a coach service was started bringing children in from a local Housing Estate. He saw a need for Residential Homes for the elderly and through the combined efforts of all the Free Churches, a Housing Association was established which now has three homes accommodating about 50 folk.
The next Minister in 1967 was Rev H Alan Smith, who saw the need to begin to change some of the traditional practices, and during his time the 100 strong Sunday School was transferred from Sunday afternoon to Sunday Morning.
Rev Charles Becket who came in 1974 was also involved with the wider Church, especially in Europe, and when in 1977 four Russian Pastors were allowed to visit Britain, their first call was our Church for an evening rally: The church was packed!
Rev Graeme Stockdale became minister in 1987 and soon contacted all the other local churches to organise a ‘Live Link’ to the Billy Graham mission in Earls Court. This was held in 1989 in the Salvation Army Citadel, and resulted in many conversions.
He also introduced modern Worship songs to the Church.
Rev Don Bridle who came in 1997 carried on with this and with the Rev David Wright who joined him in 1998 as co-pastor carried on the work of bringing the Church up to date with modern thinking. Shortly after Don's ministry ceased at our church David Wright also retired (May 2003).
Our present minister, Rev Steve Christian came in September 2003 and has led the Church on, helping us to see our ministry to the people who live nearby in terms of service; We have sought to make our worship more accessible to our community and have for instance removed the formal pews and put in comfortable chairs, and installed an up-to-date Audio Visual System. As a result we are beginning to see folk come to worship who would have otherwise have felt excluded.
In September 2007 Jenny Beard (one of our church members) was comissioned as our Parish Nurse. Jenny's ministry has had a huge impact on both members of our church but also our links as a church into the local community and the Primary Care Trust.
The following September (2008) saw two more of our members comissioned and set apart into minsitries within the church. Elveen Mead as a minister-in-training, and Adam Chinn as a Youth & Community worker (in training). Both will be studying at Bristol Baptist College and we look forward to the impact that they will make as they work alongside Steve, Jenny, the leadership and members of our church.
Sadly in March 2009 Jenny our Parish Nurse and her husband moved away to enjoy retirement in Devon so that they could be nearer to their grandchildren. This brough to an end for the time being the ministry of Parish Nursing at CPBC. Jenny will be greatly missed because Parish Nursing has enabled the church to engage with our community in a huge number of different ways. September also saw Elveen our Minister-in-training leave her training placement with us to continue her ministerial training working with the local baptist association (West of England Baptist Association (WEBA)) planting a church in Portishead. This will involve planting a church from scratch in order to allow for a baptist presence in a town where there currently is none. The church will continue to pray for her in this work and we wish Elveen and her family every blessing in their new venture.
Rev R Venting 1901 - 1903
Rev J W Padfield 1904 - 1907
Rev G Sherriff Johnson 1908 - 1919
Rev H G Drake 1920 - 1927
Rev Cecil H Thompson 1929 - 1950
Rev Victor J Smith 1952 - 1966
Rev H Alan Smith 1967 - 1973
Rev Charles W Becket 1974 - 1985
Rev Graeme Stockdale 1987 - 1995
Rev Don Bridle 1997 - 2002
Rev David Wright 1999 - 2003
Rev Steve Christian 2003 -
Mrs Jenny Beard 2007- 2009 (Parish Nurse)
Mrs Elveen Mead 2008 - 2009 (Minister-in-Training)
Mr Adam Chinn 2008 - 2011 (Youth & Community worker-in-training)