Man who fought for religious freedom in Spalding dies in 1917

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A man who had fought for religious freedom in Spalding and district had died in 1917.

The Rev J C Jones (93), had been Baptist Pastor in Spalding for 65 years, only retiring three years earlier.

For more than half a century, he had been prominent in the public life of the town not only as pastor, but for 54 years as a member of the Spalding Board of Guardians, and at the time of his death its chairman.

However, the report of his death described him as someone who had been a key figure in the establishment of the ‘free church’.

It said he was a stalwart of nonconformity, a Protestant Christian who did not conform to the established Church of England.

The report pointed out that while nonconformity in 1917 was accepted, that had not been the case 80 years earlier.

The reader was asked to contrast the “easy-going age of religious tolerance” that existed with times when nonconformity was a “solemn conviction held in spite of civil disabilities and against the oft-levelled taunt that dissent was sin”.

Life then was “often made hard and sometimes impossible” for a militant nonconformist, but the report said: “It would be unwise to recount some of the controversies and bitter personal conflicts which Mr Jones entered into half a century ago with leading churchmen of the town and district”.

As a mere stripling, Mr Jones joined the ranks in the fight for religious freedom and had to “combat the spirit of prejudice and intolerance” that existed.

Not only was “the blood of the Puritan” in him: in the church at Spalding there were “many kindred spirits whose forebears had suffered martyrdom for their faith, and who themselves had endured abuse, shame and oppression at the hands of ecclesiastical tyrants.”