The Church began in 1887 as a group of Christians meeting, following – we understand – the ministry of Somerset born Ephraim Venn who was only around 30 years old at the time. He was convinced that he became a Christian on 11th July 1876.
“On that day, during a short walk with George Brealey of the Blackdown Hills mission, Clayhidon, who quoted John 5:24, the light entered his soul, and he knew himself a child of God. From that moment his one desire was to spread the joyful news of salvation and to lead sinners to Christ. Two Sundays afterward, he and another young Christian began to preach the Gospel in an old Baptist Chapel near Clayhidon.”
Clearly an evangelist at heart, Ephraim poured his life into sharing the Christian faith, ministering both in Dublin and London, but the work in small villages and among country folk lay nearer to his heart. Shortly after his death on 27th December 1930, the following verse was found in his pocket book, and no doubt sums up his whole attitude to life, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8)
It’s good to know that the roots of the Church are founded in ‘mission’. Dorchester Community Church became an Independent Church in the early 1970’s. In short this means that, although a Bible believing Church, we are not affiliated to any one denomination. We are however members of the Evangelical Alliance.
Moving on to the present, 2004 saw the Church appoint it’s first ever Pastor, Roger Frapwell. There were just 50 members. From a background in Sainsbury’s, Roger was trained at Moorlands Bible College, a Christian training centre in Dorset before starting to work for Spurgeon’s Child Care at his then home Church at Testwood Baptist Church, Totton, Southampton. It was here that he gave birth to the community project, ‘Youth And Families Matter’ and indeed managed this project for 11 years. YFM, as it is affectionately known now continues to be a key resource in Totton for supporting young people and families. Roger was one of three ministers at Testwood. In addition to his managing YFM, his main responsibilities for the Church were outreach, youth work, leading and preaching. A key verse for Roger and indeed the Church has been from Isaiah 43:18-19… “See, I am doing a new thing…”
The Church had initially sought to recruit a part-time worker. Roger asked if the Church saw this role growing into a full time role? The response he received was that the Church had enough money for a part-time worker for 4 years, but a full-time worker for only two years. Roger said, “Then why don’t I start full time and let’s see what God does…” Numbers began to increase. We started to run an ‘Alpha’ course, developed child protection procedures, and began to develop small groups, soon linking with other Churches in more creative forms of outreach. There was question and growing concern over the name of the Church – back then called ‘Acland Road Evangelical Church’. Following much discussion we became ‘Dorchester Community Church.’
In response to local need we started a befriending scheme. Now with APS acreditation, ‘Dorchester Friends in Deed‘ is a key part of the Church, supporting many in our community who are either lonely or vulnerable.
We took a further step of faith back in 2008 when we appointed a second member of staff. With no outside fiancial support, this was a measure of how far the Church had come, certainly in terms of giving. Simon Burin became our Youth Pastor and has subsequently developed many of our current ministries, such as the Holiday Club, local Christian Union, Puppet Ministry etc. Simon and his wife Pathy now head up a Baptist Church in Sunderland.
Another exciting venture is the potential we have to move to new premises in the very near future. We are currently working with the Council about a move which would give us twice our current space and, most importantly, enable us to be more effective in reaching and ministering to the people of the Town. Watch this space! We are looking to re-locate to Poundbury and are enjoying very positive links with The Duchy towards this end. The plan is for us to be adjoined to the new school planned for Poundbury, next to the Great Field, on the road leading up towards Queen Mother Square. West Dorset District Council confirmed in July 2015 that they will be purchasing our current site so this will enable us to move up to Poundbury as planned. We are really excited by this possibility as there is currently no Church in the whole of Poundbury. We want to become a part of that community, both as a spiritual and social resource. Why not join us!
Where we are at the moment
Let’s have a glimpse of the building, and Church life, 100 years ago…! The building itself was surrounded by other buildings, all fairly close. This together with the stained glass windows gave quite a dark and gloomy appearance! Coat hangers were all around the walls (as most people walked of course!) and selected Bible verses were displayed on the walls. As a result of people not having cars back then, outings were enjoyed by steam train!
Lighting was by 4 gas lamps plus two either side of the platform. Heating was by two convection gas fires, one on each side of the hall half way down. The effect in Winter was to either freeze or roast – depending on where you sat!
Change is here to stay…! There have obviously been many changes to the fabric of the Church over the years, and that’s been very necessary. The back room, known for years as the ‘school room’, was built mostly by Church members. This is where Junior Church meets today.
We continue to examine ‘what we look like’ recognising that, whether we like it or not, to the world in which we live image is everything. If people go on first impressions, we want to do all we can to ensure that the impression they receive from Dorchester Community Church is a good one…
For current activities we are involved with, please refer to the relevant sections from the menu which can be found at the top of every page.
Some facts about our Church
Dorchester Community Church was responsible for a ‘Counties’ evangelist to be seconded. The first being Nelson Walker. For over 30 years we have supported Stephen Gillham in his ministry. Many of our young people look forward to the camps each year and Stephen is one of our visiting speakers. Stephen has handed much of his work over to Ian Carr, whom we also seek to support. We also support Counties workers Jon Brain, in Wiltshire, and Mike Strange, in Somerset.
Dorchester Community Church, together with two Christians from Weymouth, influenced Gideon’s International to allow a Dorset branch to be formed. Thousands of Bibles have been placed in hotels, prisons and guest houses, and many children continue to receive a Gideon’s Bible at school.
Fact & Faith films, when first produced, were shown in the Church to a full house! We need to do whatever it takes today to rekindle such spiritual interest. More recently we have shown both the ‘Jesus’ film, and the Mel Gibson epic, ‘The Passion of the Christ’.
The work amongst children has been going over 70 years, and teas for Senior Citizens have been held bi-monthly ever since October 1967. All ages matter to God.