Rebels and Non Conformists Christians – in Jesmond!

Jesmond URC is part of  the United Reformed Church family, formed in 1972 it brought together Presbyterians and Congregationalists in one denomination, and we continue to work ecumenically in local situations. Our history traces back to 24 August 1662, when nearly two thousand dissenting clergymen were ejected from the Church of England. They had taken a principled stand against the Act of Uniformity, requiring them to use the revised Book of Common Prayer in all services and to assent to the 39 articles of faith. Many of them founded dissenting congregations of Independents, Presbyterians or Baptists. 

In the following three decades, they were persecuted by the state, and subjected to a barrage of legislation aimed at preventing their activities, restricting freedom of movement and barring entry to the two universities or holding civil office. Despite this, many congregations survived, meeting in secret, and after 1689 came to be tolerated. It was not until the mid-19th century that all civil disabilities were finally removed. Prior to this, for a few years in the 1670s, dissenting ministers were licensed as independent teachers, but licences were later revoked. 

Puritans and separatists of various sorts had arisen in the English church at various times during the preceding two centuries, and during the civil war and Commonwealth of the 1640s-1660, many nonconformist clergymen had ejected Episcopalian Anglicans from their parishes. With the Great Ejectment of 1662, the position was reversed. 

In the following centuries, meeting houses and chapels were built as congregations grew, becoming increasingly grand edifices by the late Victorian era. Some congregations moved around, renting or building new premises as they outgrew previous buildings. Others planted new churches in neighbouring areas. In many cases, internal disagreements led to groups separating to found their own churches. 

The latter part of the 20th century is marked by decline, with many churches closing or uniting, as falling numbers meant it was no longer possible to run so many separate congregations with their own premises. It is good to see that some of these unions have resulted in reunions of formerly separated congregations.  Find out more about the history of your local non conformist church here