Our Roots -Short Baptist History
Baptists trace their history to Anabaptists. The Anabaptist movement began in Zurich, Switzerland. Anabaptists were rebaptisers. They rejected the idea of infant baptism and refused to have their children christened. It was their belief that faith preceded baptism. By the same contention it followed that they themselves invalidated their infant baptisms and therefore were rebaptised and practiced believers’ baptism.
Some Christians felt that the Reformation did not go far enough. The reformation was an attempt to bring reforms in the Roman Catholic Church which was the main church in the West and whose practices were seen to be unbiblical. The Reformation began in the 16th Century with Martin Luther a catholic priest who broke away from the church in protests. His action brought about the Protestant or Reformation movement.
As time went by and as the Reformers searched the scriptures, they felt they must conform more to scripture than state churches together with tradition and reason. Persecution followed those who broke away from the establishment or those who were deemed to be separatists. The Anabaptists are acknowledged to be more sober, God-fearing and honest than others, and their preachers expounded the scriptures more faithfully. Nevertheless it was believed that such people as these were dangerous and should not be tolerated.
Those who left the establishment were known as non-conformists. They were non-conformist because they refused to be members of the Church of England. Refusing baptism in the state church was perceived to be an act of political defiance, not just an act of ecclesiastical dissent. If Christ was king of the church, then the church had to be free from state control. Those who did not conform to the demands of the state church were persecuted.
In 1602 a group of non-conformists led by Rev. John Smyth who had been an English clergyman formed a church. He fled to Holland because of persecution and teamed up with Jan Munter and Thomas Helwys. Having understood believers’ baptism as a norm in the New Testament he baptized himself and he together with 36 others formed the first church composed of Englishmen that is known to have stood for baptism of believers only. Thomas Helwys and others returned to England in 1611. The first Baptist church, in a modern sense, gathered in London in 1611.
From about the yea 1641, at the latest Baptist doctrine and practice have the same in all essential features that they are today.
Blantyre Baptist Church -Short History
This short history of Blantyre Baptist Church has some gaps that need filling because there is no written record that I (Vincent Chirwa) can rely upon. What I have written below is mainly from what I am able to recollect since I became a regular attendee and later on in 1985 when I became a member. As such this is not a final document with regards to historicity. I pray that I and other people will in due course fill in the gaps so that this history is made more complete.
Blantyre Baptist Church started as Limbe Baptist Church and was started by Southern Baptist missionaries from the United States of America in the early sixties. The church started meeting in Limbe in Mercury House where a shop and bakery is situated. The church moved to Chichiri, near the Kamuzu Stadium along Lali Lubani road which was a mission station of the Southern Baptist missionaries but locally known as Baptist Mission in Malawi.
PASTORS, WORSHIP EXPERIENCE, ETC
Its first pastor was Rev Davidson. The second pastor was Rev Carl Houston together with his wife, Doris. He was assisted by Christopher Nkhoma together with his wife, Winnie both Malawians. The third pastor was Rev Ronnie Quillen together with his wife, Patricia, both Americans. During the pastorate of Rev Ronnie Quillen, he managed to find a scholarship for Christopher to study at South Western Baptist Seminary in the United States of America. He also convinced the church to have plans drawn so we could start erecting a church building on the property we had acquired near the Independence Arch. Worship services were conducted in English.
There were morning and Evening services. There were predominantly white people with a small Malawian number in their midst. Among them were the following families: Mr Douglas Banda, Mr Harry Jonga, Mr Pat Banda. The latter was instrumental in the planting of Ndirande Baptist Church. Until this time the worship experience was American (Southern Baptist) with the Baptist traditional hymnal singing accompanied by a piano. The fourth pastor was Rev Paul Cameron together with his wife Penelope both, South Africans. He was assisted by Vincent Chirwa who started ministry on 1 December, 1995 together with his wife Rosemary, both Malawians. By this time the worship experience musically included British, South African and Malawian songs. The accompaniment broadened and included guitars. The congregation was about half expatriate and half Malawian. The church had a healing service that reflected a charismatic movement that the pastor encouraged.
MOVE FROM MISSION PREMISES (OLD PREMISES) TO NEW PREMISES
Earlier In the same year the church moved to Plot CC964 situated near the independence Arch on the corner of Masauko Chipembere Highway and Kasungu Crescent to occupy a building comprising of a kindergarten, two offices, kitchen and toilet which was phase 1 of construction of a church complex before the sanctuary was built. Rosemary passed away in 1998. When Vincent Chirwa went to seminary in Cape Town to study, the church called Rev Victor Covington an African American from UBIA (United Brethren in Action) as interim pastor. The church opened its new sanctuary in 1999.Vincent chirwa returned to Malawi from seminary in Cape Town upon completion of his studies and pastured alongside Covington who later returned to the United States of America in 2003. Among the earlier members of the church who are still here today serving are Mr Binnie Banda and family and Mr John Kawamba and family. Pastor Chirwa introduced Chichewa service in 2004.
Currently, (2010) the church is led by Rev Vincent Chirwa together with his wife Ellen. He is assisted by Gray Kawamba and Kenneth Mpemba together with his wife Avisha. The church is now (2010) predominantly Malawian with a few expatriates from Africa and a few White people.
Rev Ronnie Quillen died in 1999 in the USA. Dr Christopher Nkhoma died in the USA in December, 2008 while he was at Dallas Baptist Seminary.
We are thankful to God for those who sacrificed, gave their time and resources so that the church would continue to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ. We also are grateful to know that there are many to whom credit is due to the glory of our Lord but cannot be included in this record for reasons beyond the author. I sincerely apologise to anyone who deserves mention but has been left out inadvertently.