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So, being a student of history, I was reading the British Baptist Quarterly 3.1 from 1926, and I came across a reprinting of a Baptist Church Covenant from a Baptist Church plant in Stony Stratford, Bucks, dating back to the mid-seventeenth century. The church was a strict-Calvinist Baptist Church, apparently meeting on a "horse fair." I did some digging, and a horse fair was an open field set aside in townships where horses could be traded or sold. It is the equivalent of a modern day Car Dealership. So this church plant was basically meeting in a 17th Century Car Dealership. It was very interesting, particularly for the emphasis they placed on the weekly Sunday Worship gathering. Read it for yourself:
The Church Covenant
OF THE PARTICULAR BAPTIST CHURCH, MEETING
IN THE HORSE FAIR, STONY STRATFORD, BUCKS
To seek by all proper means' the good of the church with which we stand connected. To this end we engage to attend regularly, as far as we have opportunity, all seasons of public worship, church meetings, and meetings of prayer appointed by the church. When we are absent we will be ready to give an account why we were so, if required.
We will diligently watch for the appearances of God's work in our congregation; and if we see any setlting their faces Zion-ward, we will endeavour to instruct and encourage; and having hopeful evidence of the reality of God's work upon their souls, will lay before them the privileges they have a right unto, and the duties they ought to be found in, of following Christ in his Ordinances and Institutions. If called to the painful work of executing the penalties of Christ upon the breakers of the laws of his house, we will endeavour to exercise it in the spirit of the gospel without respect of persons.
In all questions that shall be debated at our church meetings, the brethren shall speak but one at a time; and if a difference in sentiment should take place, we will endeavour in brotherly love to weigh the matter' fully and' deliberately, and then put it to the vote in order that it may be determined by the majority. Also we engage that according to our ability, we will contribute our share towards defraying all necessary expenses attending to the worship of God. We likewise promise to keep the secrets of the church, and not to expose its concerns to the world around.
Read the whole thing for yourself here. "The Church Covenant of the Particular Baptist Church Meeting in the Horse Fair, Stony Stratford, Bucks," Baptist Quarterly 3.1 (1926): 41-44. [This article is in the Public Domain]
Are you curious to know whatever became of this church that promised they would give an accounting to the entire congregation if they ever missed a Sunday worship service? Are you curious to know what happened to the church that committed together to financially "defraying" the overhead costs of the worship service? They still thrive three and a half centuries later! They've changed their name from Stony Stratford Particular Baptist Church to Stony Stratford Community Church, but they still gather for worship to this very day! You can still find them meeting in a beautiful, ancient, historic red-brick building on Horsefair Green Road, Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes with the following postal code, MK11 1JW. It's hard to be exact, but their building isn't too far from the very spot where they started gathering for worship three centuires ago! Check them out on the web: http://www.stonystratfordcommunitychurch.co.uk/
What's the moral of the story? If any church wishes to be around in three centuries, providing a safe place for their great grand kids to worship God and fulfill the Great Commission, they will need to commit themselves to the disciplined observance of the Sunday Worship service. The history books are littered with churches that don't exist anymore (Revelation 2-3), but those that thrive to this day do so by emphasizing the weekly worship of God.
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