The Chapel at Brewers End, Takeley
The chapel at Brewers end was founded in 1808 and rebuilt in 1902.The worshippers were dissenters or Non Conformists who called themselves Independent or Free churches.
They were dissenting from the Anglican Tradition, the state church of England. Their own tradition went back to the Puritans of the 1600s. This part of Essex and Hertfordshire was a stronghold of Independent religion. During Elizabethan times the Puritans such as John Owen operated mostly while they could within the Anglican Tradition. A number of their leaders had spent time on the continent during the time of Bloody Mary and they bought a Reformed Tradition to England which was essentially Calvinistic.
Dissenters included Baptists and Quakers who are also strong in this area. The dissenting churches in this area were largely Congregational or Independent, believing themselves to be autonomous in each locality they were in; each local church depended directly on Christ its Head they taught. Presbyterians in contrast were reformed churches that were organised into a governing hierarchy. The Reformed Tradition held to a Covenant Theology that included infant baptism, a strong sense of the ministry and the authority of the Bible.
The reformers who returned during the reign of Elizabeth had a lot of influence initially but were soon to be driven out of the Anglican Tradition. The Puritans were however a powerful force and formed the backbone of anti royalist sentiments that eventually led to the English Civil war and the hero of the reform tradition Oliver Cromwell coming to power.
Cromwell’s close family included the Barringtons of Barrington Hall in Hatfield Broad Oak. It is good to remember that Cromwell despised holy buildings to the extent that a number of the local Anglican churches including Thaxted were used as stables for his horses. Chapel’s were licensed meeting halls and were purely functional.
After the reign of Cromwell with the restoration of the Monarchy, any form of religious enthusiasm was feared and dissenters from the Anglican Church found themselves barred from the right to participate in the government of the country, nor could they register their own marriages and births, bury their dead or attend university. This was the context when the first chapel was built.
Things were to change through the 19th century however as non conformists freed from the responsibilities of government ploughed their efforts into industry, medicine and education. For example, the Boys College in Stortford was started by the Water Lane Congregationalists in Bishops Stortford in 1852 for the education of the nonconformist middle classes. Dissent was the religion of the self-made middle classes and the working man and eventually they became a powerful economic force able to reform the laws of the land and began to organise themselves.
1828 Repeal of the Test and Corporation Act; rights of dissenters to participate in the government of the country.
1832 Reform Act; substantial representation in parliament
1836 Marriages permitted in licensed chapels
1868 Compulsory church rates were abolished
1880 Dissenters able to be buried in Church of England churchyards by their own ministers
Each town in the local area, Sawbridgeworth, Bishops Stortford, Stansted Mountfitchet and Dunmow has its large Independent Chapel, now United Reform Churches (URC) except for the chapel in Sawbridgeworth which has remained independent of the URC.
The Chapel at Takeley as well as that in Sawbridgeworth did not join the URC formed in 1972 by the union of the Congregational Church in England and Wales and the Presbyterian Church of England, but remained independent.
In 1908 the Takeley Chapel celebrated its Centenary in New Buildings and a History of the Chapel to that date was written down.
Pastor Kraay allowed the use of the buildings for the Christian School in 1989 and celebrated his 40th year in 2004. Pastor Kraay died in February of 2006 .
Takeley Chapel congregation is a partner Church of Rural Ministries.
On the 27th June 2009 Philip Elson lead a meeting to celebrate 200 years of the Chapel and 20 years of the school.
Philip gave a history of the Chapel and looked forward to the future of the Christian witness on the site. The gospel was preached powerfully by Philip.
And this is what is at the heart of the congregational Church witness in Takeley;
Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Its mission is to bring this message to the village of Takeley and live the reality of Takeley Chapel being at the heart of the community with a thriving work of God.
In October 2017 Takeley Congregational Church became a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).