2013-01-31 / News

Jamestown Chapel will celebrate its independence after 15 years

Church separated from Exeter Chapel in 2011
BY KEN SHANE

The origins of the Jamestown Chapel lie in the beliefs and traditions of the Baptist church. At one time the members belonged to the Exeter Chapel on Ten Rod Road. But when the building began to fill up, the idea of meeting in Jamestown began to take hold since there were several members who were Jamestown residents.

In 1994, members of the Jamestown Chapel began meeting on the island for the purpose of Bible study. Based on the interest that was generated, the members started meeting regularly for services on Sunday mornings and Wednesdays. They have been meeting in Jamestown ever since. There are currently about a dozen members meeting regularly, with others attending more sporadically.

“We’re a Bible-based church,” said Pastor Mark Cote. “We come out of a background of independent

Baptist churches. We think of ourselves as nondenominational. We don’t refuse anybody. We do still hold to the Baptist traditions of baptism by immersion, and that someone has to be a true believer in Jesus Christ before we accept them into our membership.”

When the capacity at Exeter became an issue for the Jamestown group, members initially began to meet in the Cote home. They met there for about a month before moving to rent space at what was then the Jamestown Shores Association building. After several years the building was sold, and the Jamestown Chapel found a new home in March 1999 at the Conanicut Grange building on West Street, also home to the Jamestown Senior Center.

The Jamestown Chapel remained attached to Exeter Chapel ever since leaving to come to the island. However, the group had entertained the idea of becoming independent for several years.

The decision was finally made in February 2011. The Jamestown Chapel applied to the state of Rhode Island and took the necessary steps to become an independent religious organization in accordance with state law.

“We are still loosely attached to Exeter Chapel,” Cote said. “We’ve been functioning more or less independently for a number of years, but they kept the books. When we became independent we took our own financial responsibilities. But we’ve been pretty much self-supporting the whole time.”

According to Cote, the fact that Jamestown Chapel had been functioning in a de facto independent fashion for some time made severing the ties with Exeter a natural progression. He likened it to a child who grows up and becomes independent of his parents.

“We feel like we’re taking ownership and taking on responsibilities,” Cote said. “Not that I really needed permission, but I would have to go and say I need a check for this or I need information for that. It’s a lot more workable to say ‘OK, we’re going to do this and we have the resources and the ability to do it.’”

Cote, who works a full-time job in addition to his duties with the chapel, said that based on the last two years he is satisfied with the decision to make the group independent. He added that his nonchurch work means that sometimes things take a little longer to get done because of his limited time.

“I have to be part of the motivating force to get things moving, and time hasn’t always been free for me to be able to say ‘OK, let’s go forward,’” he said. “There are things that you have to do to be able to become independent. They seem simple in some ways, but there is some work involved.”

Much of the work that Cote mentioned to separate from the Exeter Chapel involved doing the research to find out what the legalities are and what requirements have to be met. In addition, he said that while philosophy varies somewhat from church to church, his church’s beliefs are based on the Bible. Therefore, he said a certain amount of study is needed to find answers to important questions such as whether the church has the appropriate people among its members who can be in the leadership.

“Looking into all of that we started thinking more seriously about it,” he said. “We did some studying, had some teaching about it, and built it all on Bible teaching, from that point of view.”

Cote said that although Jamestown Chapel has started a development fund, plans are to remain at the Conanicut Grange for the foreseeable future.

“We’re so small at this point,” he said. “As long as they’re willing to have us still there, we’re happy enough to be there. If we were to grow significantly, then it would be time to look for another location. At this point that’s kind of a dream.”

The Jamestown Chapel will hold a service to celebrate its independence. It will take place on Sunday, Feb. 10, at 9:30 a.m. at the Conanicut Grange. Refreshments will be served. The public is invited to attend and take part in the celebration.

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