Bethesda Baptist Church

I was pleased to pass Bethesda Baptist Church in Ipswich in the summer. It boldly quotes scriptural texts on its walls and its website assures the reader of its evangelical fervour and faithfulness. I smiled briefly on the webpage that showed the leadership team; they all apparently buy clothes from the same shop.

Yet it was the building’s architecture which grabbed my attention, after the Bible verses pasted to its walls. The apostles would have recognised it as a pagan temple, with its graceful classical columns, neat pediments and ionic capitals. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the architectural styles of Greece and Rome (with appropriate modification for our cooler climate, of course) were all the rage. Although heavy gothic would make its come back, English builders looked to the ancient Med for their inspiration. In one respect, the church’s current pastor and deacons do likewise; by seeking to be faithful to scripture, they, and we, seek to emulate those early churches at Philippi, Galatia and, dare I say, Corinth. While learning from their faults, we would replicate their apostolic purity, their ecclesiastical structures, and their Christological zeal. We cannot alter our architecture at Salem Chapel, but we can seek to be faithful to those classical, Mediterranean blue prints that the Bible hands down.

Despite its classical grandeur, its name is Hebrew and means 'House of Mercy'. I pray God's blessing upon this Bethesda.