Charles Haddon Spurgeon, `the prince of preachers’, of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London found his way to Cheam in 1857 or 1858. He was resting in Worcester Park but made his way down the leafy and typical English country road to Cheam Village.
The villagers showed some interest in his message and representatives from the Tabernacle came week by week to preach on the village green and distribute Christian literature. Many people who did not attend the established Church of England sought a more permanent place to gather and it was in 1862 that Cheam Baptist Church (CBC) was first constituted and met in a cottage in the Malden Road – the rent was 4s a week. A few years later, in 1871, they bought a site opposite the cottage for £100 and built a chapel – the little `Bethel’. The building is still standing and was until recently the auction room of Parkins.
In 1905 the church moved 100 yards nearer the centre of Cheam Village to a prominent position at the junction of the Malden Road and Park Road and on the brow of the hill leading out of the Village towards North Cheam. It was a move from a village chapel to a suburban church. This remains CBC’s place of worship to this day, though an enlargement of the church did take place in 1938 / 39.
Other buildings have been attached to the church – `new’ halls on the Malden Road were added in 1923 though these are now known as ‘old’ halls. These are currently used by the Pre-School. Further halls were built in 1971 and these are in very regular use for prayer and study groups and other activities that involve the whole spectrum of ages from young to old. The adjacent printing works and stationery shop, Dunns, was purchased in 1997 and this was converted into a coffee / snack drop in shop. During the day it is for all ages and in the evenings for youth work. The thriving children’s and youth ministry is a very important focus of the CBC’s life.
In 2002 the church faced a major challenge when a property developer sought to take over the church’s land to build a supermarket with the church being relocated to a nearby site. After much discussion and prayer, members were united and agreed to reject the offer.
More Than Buildings
But whilst buildings are needed, the church is people and this church is not just for Sundays. CBC has grown numerically and spirituality. This CBC was not built by one man’s ministry but by many teams and individuals – pastors, people, elders, deacons, prayers, preachers, sowers, reapers, builders, organisers and givers.
The cornerstone of CBC’s teaching and outreach has remained faithful to the Word of God – the Bible. If CBC could be described as a Bible based church it is also a prayerful church and a mission minded church. Many faithful Christians have been sent out from CBC over the years and now serve the Lord around this country and currently in such diverse places as South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Brazil, Java, Cuba and Canada – the whole world. The age of these missionaries runs from 90s right down to those taking a `gap’ year and still in their teens.
But the work is unfinished as “God is working His purposes out, until the earth shall be filled with the Glory of God.”’ We pray that a thrilling chapter may yet be written of an extraordinary divine visitation upon this church and its community.