Monday, October 18, 2021

Bridport, Dorset

Chapel in a garden

Bridport’s Unitarian chapel was built in the 1790s after a group split from an existing independent congregation in 1742. The then minister, Thomas Collins, refused to affirm the divinity of Christ, leading some 200 people to leave and set up their own congregational chapel elsewhere in the town. Those who remained continued under Collins’ ministry, and in 1974 they agreed to build a new chapel, then called the New Meeting, the building that survives today.

The building is a standard 18th-century chapel, with symmetrical front, round-headed windows, hipped roof, and central porch, the latter given a touch of elegance by its semi-circular shape and Ionic columns. But the most distinctive thing about it today is its position, set back from the street and fronted with greenery and flowers. It’s hard to imagine a better setting for a chapel in the middle of a town. The congregation invites passers-by to sit and enjoy the green space, where they can find rest, relaxation, and, perhaps encouraged by the gentle cooing of the doves, spiritual enrichment.

The doves have their own miniature building, which can be seen on the left in my photograph. It’s ornate, octagonal, and painted the same white as the bricks of the chapel’s facade. The occupants perched obligingly and eyed me as, taking welcome relief from Bridport’s busy main street, stopped to take the photograph. Christians have long used the dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Unitarianism rejects the Trinitarian notion of the deity, so have no place for that symbol. However, doves have long been linked with peace and purity, and few, in this tranquil setting, would take issue with that.

1 comment:

Alan Boyd said...

typo alert: 1st para, last sentence ‘1974’