The History of New Meeting House
New Meeting's origins reach back to the days of the civil war in England and Richard Baxter, who served as a chaplain in Cromwell's New Model Army.
Richard Baxter was one of over 2000 ministers to be ejected from the Church of England in 1662, because of their refusal to conform to the introduction of a new standardised liturgy and prayer book. A further edict by parliament, forbade them from preaching within five miles of their former living. Baxter was forced to leave the town he loved, but his spirit of freedom in matters of religious belief and practice lived on in the town.
Old Meeting House and Baxter Church
Later on, in 1689, The Non-Conformists, or Dissenters as they became known, were allowed by Parliament to erect their own places of worship and Kidderminster saw the founding of the Old Meeting House beside the banks of the river Stour close to the town bridge. It was a condition of the 'Act of Toleration' that such churches were to be placed discreetly in a location set back from the road - often behind shops and houses, and Kidderminster's first 'Meeting House' was no exception.
New Meeting House is Formed
In 1781, the much loved and long standing Minister of the Meeting House - the Rev'd Benjamin Fawcett died and the controversial appointment of a successor led to a split in the congregation. A significant minority decided that they felt unable to worship under the new Minister and on Boxing Day of that year, they took the momentous decision to leave and form their own church. Less than a year later in October 1782, the New Meeting House was formally opened in Church Street with great decency and solemnity.
Living Our History
Today the Unitarian congregation still cherishes Richard Baxter's spirit of freedom, and refuses to lay down fixed articles of belief in the form of creeds and dogma.