Helwys message 'still relevant today'
An event marking 400 years of Baptist founder and pioneer of religious freedom - Adrian Gray reports
A large crowd gathered recently at Retford Baptist Church (The Well) to mark 400 years since the death of Nottinghamshire man Thomas Helwys, who died in Newgate Gaol at an unknown date.
This event was organised by local Christian Heritage workers with Bassetlaw Christian Heritage and the support of Bassetlaw District Council. It was a great day!
The event was held in Retford as Thomas Helwys and his family came from this area of England. Indeed one of the Helwys family a generation earlier had been the pluralist vicar of several local parishes.
The commemoration was opened by Jo White of Bassetlaw Council and then by Richard Warren, assistant pastor at The Well.
Tony Peck, General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, combined spiritual insight and historical commentary in describing the historical importance of Thomas Helwys. We then watched a film of his thoughts from prison.
Baroness Elizabeth Berridge, campaigner for religious freedom, explained why Helwys's message is as relevant today as in the 1600s. Baroness Berridge represented the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Religious Liberty.
Finally staff from Open Doors and Release International, charities with a focus on religious persecution were interviewed about their work.
One mature member of those attending described it as 'the best event ever'....so we are happy!
In the afternoon guests were taken on a tour of places associated with Helwys and his family, and it was sunny!
Tied in with this event, a new book on the Christian Heritage of North Notts and West Lincs was published: From Here We Changed the World by Adrian Gray (pictured) is available from bookshops and online stores.
Adrian Gray is Historical adviser and director of Pilgrims & Prophets, and a member of Retford Baptist Church