Summary: This is a fictional account of a young lady, Michelle Peterson. The purpose of this story-preaching is to try and demonstrate some of the reasons why Baptists developed a formal church membership along the lines that they did.
This is a fictional account of a young lady, Michelle Peterson. The purpose of this story is to try and demonstrate some of the reasons why Baptists developed a formal church membership along the lines that they did.
Michelle Peterson was born in London, August 5th 1615. Her parents were traders. They had done quite well thanks to Queen Elizabeth’s rather vague religious position and brilliant foreign policy, which opened up many opportunities for eager traders like the young Mr. Peterson. At Michelle’s birth, under King James, they were still maintaining a healthy living.
While Michelle was quite young her mother died. Michelle had no other siblings. However she developed a very close relationship with her father. Michelle loved to spend time in the summer with her father, after his work, playing on the Clapham common.
Michelle was an inquisitive young girl. She loved to learn all she could from her father, who was a little reluctant to teach her. She learnt to add. She learnt to read. When she was reading well enough, her father encouraged her to read the Bible, which King James had recently made available to all in English. It kept her out of his hair and he thought would teach her some good morals.
The Petersons had always been good church going people. Their local rector was a nice enough man. He never was one to rock the boat and had reached as far as he had by being conservative and supporting whatever the local bishop had been supporting. This had meant subtle changes in his theology a number of times, but it had thus far worked for him.
Young Michelle had some questions about the way things were happening in their church. She had by now grown to eighteen and had read and loved the stories of Jesus. She had even ventured to get through the stories of Acts. She tried to talking to the rector a number of times raising issues she found in the Bible but found that he had not been all that keen in questioning the way things were done in church. He had said something about the new Archbishop and his severe restrictions and punishments for those bringing in their own variations on what was happening in church.
Michelle was a bit confused. She couldn’t understand how things in the Bible, which seemed clear enough to her, were being distorted by the preaching of her rector. She also couldn’t understand why church seemed to be so formal. There didn’t seem to be any of these things in the Bible. How could this be right? She kept asking her father.
Eventually her father shared his distressed about his daughter’s questions with one of the ladies in church who had continually tried to gain his attention. This lady knew a few people who were searching for similar answers to Michelle. Without Mr. Peterson’s knowledge this lady shared some names with Michelle of people who were asking similar questions. Michelle was delighted and sought these people as soon as she could.
She found that they met with others in another church not too far away in Battersea. It was not far from where she had grown up. She was told that they met on a Wednesday night and that the rector gave a variant service in support of those who were asking questions within his parish.
She went to one of their meetings on a Wednesday night and found support and encouragement amongst these people. They also were asking the same questions and their rector seemed to support their questions. She found they even had some who had not baptised their children. And some who had even received baptism as believers, seemingly forsaking their baptism as a child.
This, they said, was clearly the teaching of the Bible. Michelle tended to agree with them. Although she had some questions about their association with other strange religious groups on the continent that had seized cities and raped and killed. They reassured her that they had nothing to do with that sort of behaviour.
Michelle continued to meet with this group, and also on Sunday with her father, but was more and more drawn to the group. She felt a need to be baptised. In one of the groups baptismal services received baptism. The group was growing and Michelle was feeling more at home.
Eventually the bishop heard of the goings on at this church in Battersea. He invoked the Archbishops rules, removing the rector and placing his own favoured man, who quickly put a stop the Wednesday night meetings. This new man found the names of those going and publicly denounced these people as heretics. Michelle’s father was devastated.
The group was despondent. They gathered on Clapham common to discuss what they should do. How were they to respond to what had happened? What would Jesus, or Paul, teach them to do in such situations?