Excerpts from Historical Sketch of the Baptist Church of Rockport
By Ernest E. Ventres, Pastor 1922-1938
Published in 1932
Men and women of heroic mould prepared the way and organized the Baptist Church in Sandy Bay, which later came to be known as part of Rockport. Deliberate opposition to the Baptists found expression in the firing of a cannon three times during a service of baptism on the 27th of March 1807. At the same time a group of boys marched by the beach beating drums to disturb the service. During a service of baptism at Lanes Cove, on March 29 or 30, 1808, a man on the opposite side of the cove baptized a dog in mockery.
After the church had been established, some of the active supporters of the Baptist Church were compelled to pay a tax to the Fifth Parish, now known as the First Congregational Church. Goods were confiscated from certain members s of the Baptist Church, who refused to pay the amount levied by the collector of the Fifth Parish, and were sold at public auction.
In face of such opposition, without a pastor, and with no meeting house, a small group of people became interested in establishing a Baptist Church in the village. One of the foremost leaders in the movement was Capt. Benjamin Hale, who was born in Sandy Bay in 1776. He was converted at sea in a violent storm. On returning to New York, he was baptized and united with a Baptist Church in that city about 1801. He became an active Christian worker, and on February 25, 1809 he was licensed by the church to preach. His name heads the list of eighteen charter members who were organized into a Baptist Church in the dwelling house of Ebenezer Poole on the 30th of March, 1808.
In a letter to the Warren Baptist Association which convened in Newton on the thirteenth day of September 1808, the church in Sandy Bay asked for admission to the Warren Association, and this request was granted. The church had gained one by baptism and reported nineteen members. Meetings were held every Lord’s Day, though the church had no pastor. The following instance taken from a letter indicated both the struggle and faith of the members. “ We are a feeble-handed band; our adversaries are many and strong in the armor of this world; they are so active in striving to suppress the increase of light, knowledge, and the truth, we should give up all hope of increasing were there not a prospect of the Lord’s having some people in this town, whom he will make willing in the day of His power, to follow His Son in the narrow way of self-denial.” The church was received into the fellowship of the Warren Association by unanimous voted on September 14, 1808.