Pressure on Dissenters increased during the reign of Charles II when a number of Acts were passed to end what one Royalist called ‘the confusion in English religion’ but as time went by some of the restrictions were eased and in 1705 it was possible for the church, some 60 years after it was formed, to purchase the outbuilding where it was meeting and convert it the following year into what was known in the town as the Dissenter’s Meeting House. It cost £400, a considerable sum for those days and there would have been some sizeable contributions. The one that is remembered, however, is that of ‘a poor washer-woman’ who gave 6 pence.

Among the first items to be installed would have been the pulpit and a communion table, the features of that Nonconformity which understood worship to be meeting with Christ through the preaching of the Word and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The simplicity of these churches and the absence of symbols conducive to a ‘religious atmosphere’, even the absence until recent times of a cross, was due mainly to a belief that God is not a God of buildings, however holy, but a God who meets us in human experience and often in ‘the other person’. They did not look for him within four walls but believed that as they approached Him in worship so he might be found and so He would meet them.

Also installed were the two large & several smaller wooden pillars. These were given by the Huguenots in appreciation of the welcome they received in Sandwich when they fled from persecution in France and are masts of the ships in which they reached these shores.

People attending a service in those days would have heard the Bible read (in English) and expounded. Some would not have been able to read but what they heard would have been taken in and remembered. They would have heard a sermon and the preacher would have offered extempore prayers. Possibly a Psalm or two would have been recited or sung and once a quarter they would have shared the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (not more often lest it became too familiar). The plate and the cup would have been of good workmanship but not pretentious, and the members would have served one another. No altar, but a table, the Lord’s Table, and in some churches this would have been large enough for people to sit round. It would have been orderly and meaningful worship, the worship of people gathered round a book, and that book the Bible.

So the church took root. There were times when the building was too small to accommodate all who came and so a gallery had to be added. There were also unhappy times when the numbers dropped and all was not well. It was never easy, in any case, to be a Dissenter or a Nonconformist, as they came to be called, but the church survived.

John Wesley visited the town on a number of occasions and on 26th November 1788 accepted an invitation to preach in this church. Previous visits to Sandwich had not been very successful but on this occasion he declared ‘I believe God spoke to many hearts’.

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