Saffron Walden Baptist Church
Saffron Walden Baptist Church

Local News Stories

Saffron Walden Baptist Church is regularly in the local news.  Recent articles are below:


250th Anniversary Service and celebration lunch


The Mayor and some Town Councillors attended the 250th anniversary service on Sunday, a focal point of the year of celebration. The church was full for the occasion, led by the minister, Rev John Goddard. Among the visitors, members of Abbey Lane church were welcomed, as the Meeting in which the Baptist church had its early roots in 1774.  The preacher was Rev Lynn Green,  General Secretary of the Baptist Union, the national organisation to which the church is affiliated. She reminded the church of the ways in which in the early 19th century the then young church had been in the forefront of setting up a national organisation and had subsequently had many members who had become ministers or had leading roles in the wider denomination. However, she reminded the congregation not to dwell on the past, but to look to new things for the future, being inclusive, responding to cultural changes and finding new ways to serve the local community. After the service the sun came out for an alfresco lunch, served to 150 people at Pinkneys Manor, by invitation of one of the church leaders. 

Palm Sunday procession and Easter tomb gardens

A palm-waving procession of girls and boys paraded through the Baptist church and grounds on Palm Sunday, while the congregation sang a suitably rousing hymn. Beavers, Brownies, Scouts and Boys’ Brigade all attended the Parade service as part of the church’s 250th celebrations and brought miniature Easter Gardens they had made. Traditionally the gardens show a hill with three crosses and a cave-like tomb, representing the Bible story of Jesus’ death and burial. The large tomb garden on the church lawn is shown with a closed tomb until Easter Sunday, when the tomb is open and empty, showing that Christ is now alive in the world.


Some of the Brownies gave out their hand-made Easter cards to the congregation.


The church is grateful to Peter Morrisey and Mike Watts from the Saffron Walden Community Shed for all the help they gave to make the large Easter tomb garden and to all the leaders of the youth organisations connected with the church for organising the miniature gardens, which will be displayed again on Easter Sunday.

The annual joint service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity took place recently, when members of all the congregations in the town came together to fill the Baptist Church for a time of worship. The service was led by Rev John Goddard of the Baptist church, members of St Mary’s choir sang, prayers were led by the Salvation Army, United Reformed Church and Methodists, the Bible was read by a member of the Community Church and the Revd Kate Peacock, the Archdeacon of Stansted, preached the sermon. An offering for the work of Christian Aid amounted to £705.

After the service the Baptist Church invited everyone to share birthday cakes.  The church is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year with a variety of events which can be seen on the website, in particular a Heritage exhibition on  9-13 May and an anniversary service on 30 June. Anyone who has been in touch with the church over the years is encouraged to look for old photos or share memories for the exhibition. Did your grandparents, parents or other relatives attend, were you dedicated or married there or had an event at the church? We’d love to be reminded of them all. Contact in the first instance.

Photo caption: Birthday cakes with church logo and 250 wafers

An Advent gift for Saffron Walden

An Advent surprise for the town has appeared at the top of the High St in the shape of a traditonal Nativity scene or ‘crib’ outside the Baptist Church. Such scenes used to be common in the past and still are in other countries, where the baby is only added on Christmas Eve and the Three Wise Men in January. Advent is another way of getting ready for Christmas that doesn’t involve frantic shopping and writing cards. It doesn’t involve doing anything at all; it is a time of waiting and being alert for whatever God might inspire us to do in our lives. Entering in to the spirit of the season the church hopes that adults and children alike will enjoy viewing the Nativity scene and will stop for a moment to reflect on the meaning of Christmas and the significance of this baby, in a mysterious way, bringing new life and hope. The church thanks all the members of the Saffron Walden Community Shed involved in the construction of the stable and Ali and Mick Smith who, with their team of painters, brought the scene to life.


Photo: Ali Smith and one of her helpers


There was a special celebration at Saffron Walden Baptist Church on Sunday 24 September when the congregation came to witness Greg Pugh being baptised. Greg had been worshipping at the church for some time before coming to his decision to take this step. Baptists hold that the act of baptism is for those who are old enough to know their own mind and who understand the importance of the decision for their future lives. They baptise by immersion (being briefly dipped fully under water) which is symbolic of washing away a past life and moving on to develop their faith with a new understanding of the world guided by the principles taught by Jesus. The baptistry pool is usually hidden under a sliding floor in the church, quite a surprise to people who use the building during the week for their activities but don’t know about it. In  the photo, the Baptist minister Rev John Goddard is about to baptise Greg Pugh.

Celebration of youth organisations

The youth organisations run or supported by the Baptist Church met together at the Sunday morning service on 29 January to celebrate their recent activities and thank the leaders. Boys’ Brigade, 5th Scout group including Beavers,  and 3rd  and 6th Brownies told everyone about their badge work, exciting adventures in Norfolk, and sleepovers with congas round the building. The 6th Brownies demonstrated the Chinese Lion they had created when learning about Chinese New Year and took it on a short tour of the congregation.  Brownies and Boys’ Brigade members created a Lego house on a firm foundation and a wooden block tower on a wobbly one to illustrate Jesus’ story of the wise man who built his house on a rock and the foolish man who built it on sand causing it to tumble down.  A round of applause for the leaders and refreshments for all ended the lively service.

We’re here for you - come and have a brew

A warm haven is being made available at Saffron Walden Baptist Church during the autumn and winter, initially on Friday mornings between 10.00 am – 12.00 noon from 25 November onwards. A spokesperson for the church said: ‘Anyone who would appreciate a warm room for a couple of hours is welcome. You can drop in for tea or coffee, or stay to use the free wi-fi access. Some activities will also be available for those who want something to do. You can just drop in to the hall in Audley Rd on Fridays, where you’ll find friendly faces to welcome you.’ Contact in advance if you wish.

The Lunch Club at Saffron Walden Baptist Church has started again and now offers ‘Soup and a Sweet’ once a month to anyone who would like to participate.  There will be a vegetarian soup, bread and a pudding, with a voluntary donation to cover costs and to support the work of Christian Aid. Attendees say they appreciate the company as much as the food. Next dates for the autumn are: 31 Oct and 12 Dec at 12.30 pm. To find out more contact John Goddard on or call in at the church office on a weekday morning.

Harvest Parade Service at Saffron Walden Baptist Church

Members of the many youth organisations that are associated with the Baptist Church came to a service of thanksgiving for our food supply, which is often taken for granted. Members of the Boys’ Brigade, Guides, Brownies, Scouts and Beavers and their parents brought gifts of food to be donated to the Local Food Bank. The Brownies showed a display of their craft work and the younger section of the Boys’ Brigade had made biscuits for refreshments after the service. The work of Operation Agri in promoting vegetable growing in Mozambique, for better diets and for surplus for sale to help household incomes, was the focus of a special collection by the congregation.

MIND Breakfast Club

Good coffee, tea and biscuits, with cheese and ham toasties - a light breakfast enjoyed by visitors to the Mind in West Essex breakfast club drop-in. Small, friendly and informal, the breakfast get-together is a much appreciated safe place for local people who are living with mental health issues. Getting together with other people, having a chat or a game of Triominos are the kind of low key activities on offer. These gatherings are well attended and appreciated by a number of regular attendees. A few years ago the long-running breakfast club looked like it would fold due to lack of resources. The Baptist Church stepped in and suggested a partnership arrangement to keep the drop-in available. Martin Baker, a Peer Support Worker with Mind in West Essex, is a regular visitor to the drop-in and able to offer support and advice if required. The Breakfast Club is every Tuesday from 09.30 to 11.30 at the Baptist Church hall, by the war memorial.

Carol service

Saffron Walden Town Band led the carol service at the Baptist Church on Sunday 22 December, playing not only the carols sung by the congregation but also a medley of favourite Christmas tunes before and after the service. Donations were invited for a local charity, the Stroke Association, and an overseas one, African Health Foundation, which raises funds for Rose Ananse Memorial Hospice Care, a registered NGO with the Ghana Government which provides palliative care in the community in Kumasi, Ghana, where such care is virtually unknown. It is recognised by the Ghana Dept of Social Development as an organisation which "renders selfless social services to mankind". All the UK trustees provide their time freely and have an interest in and knowledge of Ghana - one of whom, Malcolm Johnston, is the husband of the minister, Sue Johnston, at Great Sampford Baptist Church. 


Do-it-yourself Nativity


‘Dress up, join in and then go on to be part of the continuing story today’ was the theme of the retelling of the Nativity at the Baptist Church, which included all age groups from 4 to 80+ (and an interesting and  unusual interpretation of Herod, on the right!)

60 years of 5th SW (Free Church) Scout Group


A celebration of the 60th anniversary of the 5th Saffron Walden (Free Church) Scout Group was held at the Baptist Church recently. Many people associated with the Beavers, Cubs and Scout sections over those years came together to remember the activities they had been involved in over the years, to look at photo albums of camps, hikes, sleep outs and campfires -and to marvel at the energy and commitment of their younger selves, as well as to meet the current inspiring leaders. The 5th was originally set up by the Baptist, URC and Methodist churches in Saffron Walden; the various sections now meet at the URC and Baptist churches and still have church support. A splendid cake recorded the Beavers, the two Cub packs (Aztecs and Incas), the two Scout troops {Apollo and Orion}, and the Scout troop Scorpius more recently established at Sewards End.

Around 90 young people are currently part of the 5th group, which includes girls and boys. A certificate commemorating 60 years in Scouting was presented to Neville Wilson, who was one of the original founders and leaders, by Mark Benfold, District Commissioner, and Ken Lowe, Scout Leader.


Update on Cyclone Idai floods by Saffron Walden visitors


The dramatic photos of floods around Britain recently help us to understand more fully what the disaster of Cyclone Idai was like in Mozambique where emergency services are much less available.

Liz and Sergio Vilela, visiting Saffron Walden Baptist Church on home leave from Mozambique with their two children, described how people had had to sit in trees for five days before being rescued when the terrible winds of the ‘night of terror’ struck earlier this year, causing the rivers to burst their banks over a massive area, whole areas of housing to be destroyed and the only road to the capital cut off. The church Liz and Sergio attend had its roof ripped off and all the contents destroyed. Sergio is now managing project teams to aid in the rebuilding, funded by donations to BMS World Mission, in particular, the churches which house the PEPE pre-schools where Liz leads training and child protection. Liz also described her work as a play therapist. She said: “In a local culture of strict discipline, obedience and often physical punishment for misdeeds, children are often very passive; we create an environment where they feel safe and encourage them to explore for themselves. It’s great to see them grow in confidence and emotional development”.



Practical help for the homeless


An early Sunday morning recently found Mike and Lynda Turner driving up to east London with a car full of clothes, food items and other necessities to deliver to the Whitechapel Mission, a charity established 143 years ago to serve homeless and marginalised people; it believes everyone deserves a chance, regardless of their background, race or religion.

East London is an area of considerable need reasonably close to Saffron Walden and Saffron Walden Baptist Church supports their work with a delivery of goods three times a year. The Mission is open every day of the year and sees as many as 300 homeless and vulnerable men and women each day, all without public funding. By encouraging each person to address the issues which caused their homelessness, they are helped to gain the skills and confidence to make lasting changes in their lives.

Mike, who is a Boys’ Brigade leader, said: “There was a national request to the BB in the early 1990s to engage with the work of the Mission and the Baptist Church also became involved, after a talk by the Director on the Mission’s work with street people. Older BB boys have had a tour of the premises and have learned something of the plight of people who find themselves without a roof over their head for all manner of reasons - and this is currently a big problem again in London.

It’s always a moving experience to visit Whitechapel with the church’s donations – the dedication of staff and volunteers is great to see as they show love and support to people going through very tough times.”


Charity barbecue for Shelterbox


Shelterbox will be the recipients of a donation of over £1800 as a result of a charity BBQ held last Sunday at Pinkneys Manor, Wimbish, by Saffron Walden Baptist Church, for some 60 people from the church and the village. Shelterbox provides emergency shelter and tools for families who have been robbed of their homes by natural disaster or conflict and is working for a world where no family is left without shelter after disaster. On show at the BBQ was an example of the large strong container that is filled with survival essentials, which will differ according to the need of the crisis. The church is grateful to Burtons the butchers for their kind support of the event and to everyone who donated so generously.



Cyclone Idai -Mozambique update

Events pass out of the news quickly, so it is good to hear a follow-up account of the aftermath of the devastating Cyclone Idai. Liz and Sergio Vilela, two former members of Saffron Walden Baptist Church who work in Mozambique with BMS World Mission, helping with community preschool projects and mission training for nationals, talk about their recent experience

Liz and the children re-joined Sergio in Beira about 1 month after Cyclone Idai hit, with trepidation as to what it would be like. In particular, knowing that there were lots of cases of cholera and wondering how to keep the children safe from illness. The city looked different and some places unrecognisable, mainly because of the lack of trees. However, life surprisingly got back to normal relatively quickly for them as a family. Their house suffered very little compared to others and they now have electricity and clean water. However life is still far from normal for many and they are trying to find the best ways to help those who need it most.


Liz said “We have been distributing food kits through Baptist churches and it is very challenging to see how needy the people are. Their gratitude is something that has affected us. When we went to make food deliveries to a church 40 km away we opened one of the boxes to show what was inside. The women began to sing and dance a song in their dialect that means ''if you are blessed, don't forgot to thank God.'' It was beautiful and I confess that my heart was moved and some tears were spilled.”

“Last week I, Sergio, and a few others went to visit Buzi, one of the regions most affected by the Cyclone's 200 km per hour winds as well as days of rain. To make matters worse, the river flooded its banks and most of the town. You may have seen photos of Buzi on TV, with people stranded on roof tops and in trees waiting for help to arrive. Unfortunately many lost their lives. The Pastor of Buzi Baptist Church and his family found shelter in an old lorry and waited there for six days until the water receded with little food and no toilet, but they didn't give up hope. Most of the people in Buzi lost almost everything so it was great to be able to distribute clothes, food and some Bibles.”



Local family caught up in Mozambique cyclone

The disastrous consequences of Cyclone Idai in East Africa have been brought home forcibly to Saffron Walden Baptist Church. The church supports two former members who work in Mozambique, helping with community preschool projects and mission training for nationals.

Liz and Sergio Vilela are now back in Mozambique after being on leave at Sergio’s home in Brazil when the cyclone struck. Liz said: ‘The worst moment for us was when friends were telling us that their windows were breaking and water was coming into their houses, and all they could hear were tin roofs blowing in the wind and glass breaking. Then the power went out, there was no signal and we had to wait a few days to know that they were safe.’

They cut short their holiday and Sergio has gone home to Beira to help their local partners in assessing the situation and the best way to assist. Liz has stayed in Maputo (the capital) with their children, Chloe and Joshua, for the time being.

The one main road out of Beira is now fixed and Beira is accessible again, so mineral water and food are arriving back in the shops that are open. For people that have money and a house, life seems to be more liveable now, but for the poor the issues of dirty water, housing and health conditions, are still very real. There are already cases of cholera and other diseases. There are lots of displaced people on the streets and therefore lots more police around.

Liz said: ‘A people that already had near to nothing now have absolutely nothing and not even the land that they lived off. They need to rebuild their whole lives again which will take a very long time. However there is a lot of aid coming in too from several countries, which is great. ‘


Liz grew up in Saffron Walden and met Sergio in Brazil whilst Sergio was a mission worker with Youth with a Mission. After marrying, they worked in Brazil for a year before spending three years as youth pastors at Saffron Walden Baptist Church, where Liz’s father Malcom Brown had been a former minister. They moved to Mozambique in 2013 with BMS World Mission.


Some stats from the UN so far: 446 dead, 1,500 wounded, 58,600 houses destroyed, 500,000 hectares destroyed, 1.85 million people in need, $281.7 million needed.

Disasters Emergency Committee Appeal:




Print | Sitemap
© Saffron Walden Baptist Church, High Street, Saffron Walden, Essex. CB113HD Tel: 01799 523031