Here it may be well to record the fact, that, shortly before the “fixing of their pastor, Benjamin Beddome” the church at Stowe had become one with the church at Bourton. The transaction is thus recorded
“Copy of a paper signed by the members of Stowe church, March 19, 1742/3
“Whereas we, whose names are underwritten, (being formerly members of the Church of Christ meeting at Stowe, commonly known by the name of Baptists,) having by a church act dissolved ourselves, and looking upon ourselves no longer as a distinct church, have also made application to the Church of Christ meeting at Bourton for communion and fellowship with the said church. We do hereby confirm that our application, and profess, that we no longer look upon ourselves as a distinct body ; but as members of the said church at Bourton, in conjunction with which we desire to be fed with the sincere milk of the word, and attend upon those ordinances which were instituted as well for the glory of the Redeemer, as the comfort of our souls.”
This document is signed by 23 persons, male and female, and is followed by articles of agreement between Bourton and Stowe churches.
“I. No longer to look upon themselves as two distinct and separate bodies, but as one Church ; and as members of that one church, reciprocally to watch over one another, pass church acts, exercise church discipline, &c.
II. That the minister resident or preaching at Bourton, shall preach at Stowe in the afternoon one Lord's day in the month absolutely, and oftener, if providence order it so that the meeting at Bourton may be supplied at the same time.
III. That as long as there may be any persons living about Stowe, who cannot comfortably sit down at Bourton and there partake of the ordinance of the Lord's supper,' and are desirous to have that ordinance administered at Stowe; it shall be so administered by the pastor of the church at Bourton, at the most expedient seasons, three or four times a year.
IV. That whenever there may be twenty or thirty members, living nearer Stowe than Bourton, having a prospect of being supplied with an orderly minister of the same perswasion, and desirous of re-embodying themselves ; a liberty shall be granted them to renew and keep up a separate church state, as before this union.
V. That if any persons formerly belonging to Stowe church, shall refuse to comply with this act of that church ; and upon proper application, shall persist in their refusal, they shall be looked upon as withdrawing from the communion of the church, and their names expunged out of the list of members, unless they desire their dismission to any other church, which shall be granted them."
We are not surprised to find that this did not give perfect satisfaction. The Stowe people were certainly put upon very low diet. The result was that “after some time Stowe people complaining that one day in the month was not sufficient, and also proposing to raise something independent of Bourton, for the support of the ministry, if another opportunity might be granted them, it was agreed that they should be supplied twice a month. The minister not lessening his labours at Bourton on one of those days.”
We must not forget that the "flock" of which Benjamin Beddome had taken "the oversight" was spread over a spacious field. The Church contained about 100 members. They resided at Bourton, Lower Slaughter, Upper Slaughter, Naunton, Barton. Hawling, Saperton, Clapton, Farmington, Great Rissington, Little Rissington, Burford, Longborough, Dunnington, Swell, Stow, Broadwell, Icomb, Chipping Norton, and Hook Norton. The Church at Bourton was therefore composed of persons residing in 20 parishes – a fact often overlooked in the present day. We rejoice that it is not so now, our neighbours "have no such lengths to go, nor travel far abroad" because this mother-church sees her children rising all around.