GREETINGS TO ALL MEMBERS AND FRIENDS OF ORANGE STREET CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH. In this second issue of The Voice, we continue to present some aspects of the church’s illustrious history, not as a record but as a reminder of the rich heritage we have and to which we desire to contribute in our generation.
The church’s history is really threefold: first, the Huguenot period of its founding by those who fled the persecutions in France. Second, the brief period of the Anglicans when the Rev Augustus Toplady gave his London witness in the closing years of a short but most meaningful ministry. Third, the period of the Congregational Dissenters, Just over two hundred years ago.
In this issue, we present a history of the life and times of the founder of this period, Rev John Townsend, the first Dissenting Minister of Orange Street.
The Dissenters had played no small part in the year of the Revolution (1688). Previously the Church, anxious for uniformity, had persecuted the dissenters, hoping to force them back into the Established Church. But it had a reverse effect. It fostered rather than crushed their spirits. But because they had rendered assistance, they were rewarded by the Toleration Act of 1688 which recognized the right of public worship outside the Established Church. In 1779 the Dissenting Ministers Act was passed and Dissenters were allowed to have their own place of meeting and to enjoy their own mode of worship. It was then that a few courageous Nonconformists discovered orange Street.